Rafale deal: SC dismisses petitions seeking probe; BJP calls it clean chit, Cong maintains JPC demand

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GR News Desk | New Delhi

Giving a shot in the arm to Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA ahead of the 2019 Parliamentary elections, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a clutch of petitions seeking a probe into the Rafale deal. Reading its verdict, the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi said, “We are satisfied that there is really no occasion to doubt the (decision making) process..We do not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian Govt as the option to choose the IOP (Indian Offset Partner) does not vest with the Indian Government.”

The development comes days after the Congress won assembly elections in three states in the Hindi heartland, banking largely on allegations of corruption being involved in the deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force from French company Dassault Aviation. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had regularly alleged the Prime Minister of being complicit in the deal referring to him as ‘corrupt chowkidar’.

The IAF is facing shortage of fighter squadrons, Rafale is set to change the situation. (Source: Wiki Images)

In its 29-page-long judgment, the apex court, said: “Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry by this Court, especially in such matters.” “It will not be correct for the court to sit as an appellate authority to scrutinise each aspect of the process of acquisition,” the court added.

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Parliament disrupted, BJP hits back

Hours after the Supreme Court verdict, the ruling party capitalised on the dismissal, termed it as a clean chit from the court. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, speaking in a ruckus filled Lok Sabha called for Rahul Gandhi to apologise to the prime minister and the nation for ‘misleading the country.’ Singh said, “The Congress president tried to mislead public for political benefits and maligned India’s image globally, he should apologise to the house and to the people of the country.”

Amid the Hindi from sparring BJP and Congress legislator both the houses were adjourned for the day. The Winter Session of Parliament, that began on December 11, is yet to see a full day of business in both houses.

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Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah who has been silent since the assembly election addressed a press conference following the verdict attacking the Congress, which has pursued a coordinated campaign against the government over the deal. Shah said, “The truth always wins, I want to ask Rahul Gandhi what was his source of information on the Rafale deal. The Congress needs to tell the country why the Sonia-Manmohan government could not finalise the deal between 2007-14.”

Opposition continues its demand for JPC probe

As the Supreme Court cleared its stance on the multi-million dollar deal, the Congress continued its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal. Rahul Gandhi, addressing a media briefing in the wake of the SC verdict, said that two names will be revealed when the JPC conducts its probe in the deal. Maintaining his stand on the issue, Gandhi said, “Our questions are simple. Why was Rs 526 crore aircraft bought at Rs 1600 crore? Why was contract taken away from HAL and given to Anil Ambani? HAL is experienced and owns the land.” Earlier, the Congress fended off BJP’s call for Rahul’s apology saying that the ruling party had not read the order completely and that it does not clear them.

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Anil Ambani welcomes verdict

Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance group welcomed the verdict of the Supreme Court saying that it proves the allegations levelled against him and his company as baseless and politically motivated. Ambani has faced a barrage of allegations over his company’s involvement as an offset partner, replacing the Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL), days before it was signed in France. The clutch of petitions filed in SC questioned the government decision of choosing a private entity, Reliance defence, over an experience public entity HAL. The court, however, in its judgement maintained that there was no substansial evidence to prove commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian government.

“I welcome the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court today summarily dismissing all PILs filed on the Rafale contracts, and conclusively establishing the complete falsity of the wild, baseless and politically motivated allegations levelled against Reliance Group and me personally,” Ambani was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.