Govt Deliberately Misled Court in Rafale Case, Review Petitioners Inform SC
The apex court, in a verdict last year, had said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets and dismissed the petitions seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000-crore deal.
Rafale, a French fighter aircraft flies ahead of Aero India 2019 at Yelahanka air base in Bengaluru. (Image: AP)
New Delhi: Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist advocate Prashant Bhushan alleged in the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the Centre "wilfully and deliberately" misled the court in the Rafale fighter jet case and this amounted to "wholesale fraud".
They claimed that the Centre suppressed relevant facts from the court during the hearing in the case.
The trio is seeking review of the apex court's December 14 verdict which gave a clean chit to the Centre's Rafale deal to procure fighter jets from French firm Dassault.
In their written submission, brought by them into public domain a day before the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha polls, they said that officers who have misled the apex court should be held accountable for perjury as the government, through the notes and arguments, had "stated a series of untruths and suppressed vital facts".
"It (Centre) suppressed the truth and thereby insinuated utter falsehoods: facts and documents of the greatest significance, which have direct and overarching bearing on the matter that the court was considering, and which were available with the Government were suppressed from the court," they said in the 41-page submission.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had on May 10 reserved its verdict on the pleas seeking review of the December 14 last year judgement in the Rafale case.
The apex court, in its December 14 verdict, had said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets and dismissed the petitions seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000-crore deal.
Besides Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan, review petitions have also been filed by AAP lawmaker Sanjay Singh and lawyer Vineet Dhandha.
In their written submission filed in the court, the trio said, "The government wilfully and deliberately misled the court on matter after matter. It was not just one fact or document that might have been left out accidentally. But a series, and all of them conformed to a pattern.”
"The court placed its trust in the government as a result, in reaching the conclusions that it did, the court relied almost wholly on the notes that the government had submitted; and the government abused that trust."
They further stated: "The falsehoods and suppression of facts were so extensive that they amount to wholesale fraud: and a judgment obtained by fraud is ipso facto void, non est."
On the scope of judicial review, they said the apex court has consistently held that where the allegation is that of corruption, procedural violations and mala fide decision making, the court will be well within its right to exercise the jurisdiction.
"The contention that investigation into the matter by the statutory authorities ipso facto would compromise the national security is self serving. Statutory authorities have earlier investigated into allegations of corruption inter alia in the Bofors Artillery Guns case, the French Scorpene Submarine Case, and the AgustaWestland VVIP Helicopters case...," they said.
During the arguments on May 10, Bhushan had alleged suppression of material facts from the court by the Centre and said that as many eight critical clauses of the standard defence procurement procedure were dropped in the deal in the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Security in September 2016.
Attorney General KK Venugopal had vehemently opposed the submissions and sought dismissals of the review pleas saying that the basic grounds of these pleas were the same as in the main case.
"The Supreme Court has already decided the challenge to the Rafale deal. I would still say that the petitioners are seeking review of the judgment on the basis of secret stolen documents," Venugopal had told the court.
The Attorney General had also referred to the CAG report and said that it has been found that the government got the jets at 2.86% lower price.
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