SC moved seeking recall of verdict giving clean chit on Rafale

New Delhi: Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court seeking recall of its verdict giving a clean chit to the government’s acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a ready-to-fly condition.

The review petition contends that the court “relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given (to the court) in a sealed cover.”

Seeking an open court hearing of the petition, the petitioners have faulted the judgment on several counts, including on information that has come into public domain after the pronouncement of December 14 judgment giving clean chit to the deal for acquiring 36 jets in a ready-to-fly condition.

The petitioner, besides other issues, seeks recall of December 14 judgment on the grounds that the court had relied on “facts” which were “patently false”, a “non-existent CAG report, confusing Reliance Industries with Reliance Infrastructure, non-consideration of “material on record” which contradicted the claims made by the government in the note given to the court in a sealed cover.

It has also contested the government position, relied by the court, that deal between HAL sand Dassault (manufacturer of Rafale) had run into rough weather on account of unresolved issues between the two.

The petitioners have contended that December 14 judgment did not address their prayer for registration of an FIR by the CBI on their October 4 complaint and investigation but prematurely reviewed the contract without having the benefit of any investigation or inquiry into disputed questions of facts.

The petition has contended that the court had erroneously relied on government’s assertion that the deal between HAL and Dassault for the joint production of 108 out of 126 aircraft had ran into “rough weather” due to “unresolved issues”.

It has cited March 25, 2015, statement by Dassault CEO and that of the Indian Foreign Secretary on April 8, 2015, to contend that the deal was on track. To buttress its point, it has pointed to the March 3, 2014 work share agreement between HAL and Dassault Aviation under which both were to undertake 70% and 30% respectively for the manufacture of 108 aircraft.

It has also contended that even on pricing of the 36 aircraft, there was opposition by expert members on increasing the benchmark price from 5.2 billion to 8.2 billion euros.

“The judgement errs in not considering that 3 expert members of the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) had specifically objected to increasing the benchmark price from 5.2 billion Euros to 8.2 billion Euros”, says the petition sereking the review of Rafale judgment.

Contending that 5.2 billion Euro benchmark was discovered by an expert member, the then Principal Advisor (Cost) M.P.Singh after taking into account all factors.

The decision to arbitrarily increase the benchmark price was also objected to by Rajeev Verma, then Joint Secretary (Air) and A.R. Sule, then Finance Manager (Air).

The petitioners have contended that the court had relied on government claims whose veracity could only be ascertained after a thorough probe by the CBI.