On 24th October, former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and left-wing activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan filed a PIL in Supreme Court seeking court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal.
The petition alleges that in the Rafale deal there is prima facie evidence of cognizable offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act by public servants occupying the highest of public offices in the country. The petition mentions that they had filed a complaint before the CBI alleging corruption in Rafale deal on 4th October, but no action was taken.
The petition alleges that CBI did not register an FIR because highest public servants in the country were involved and there is extreme pressure on CBI due to which the agency could not perform its duties in a fair and impartial manner.
The petition repeats the same allegations that Prashant Bhushan, Rahul Gandhi etc have been making, that Dassault was forced to give the majority of offset contracts to “RAL” which was set up recently. These allegations have been already proved as false, as Reliance share in the offset contract is less than 10%, with an investment component of less than 3%. Moreover, Reliance Naval and Engineering Limited (RNAVAL) was originally known as Pipavav Shipyard which was set up in 1997. The company was acquired by Reliance Infra, after which the name was changed to Reliance Defence and Engineering, and then to RNAVAL.
The petition alleges that the new deal to purchase 36 Rafale jets gives undue benefits to Reliance Aerospace Limited (RAL), a company which does not exist. Perhaps they are referring to Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), which is a joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Reliance group.
The petition has urged the Supreme Court to direct CBI to register the FIR and start a probe under the court’s supervision. It also wants the court to direct the Central Government to stop influencing or intimidating the officers that would investigate the complaints. They also request that the CBI officials that would handle the investigation should not be transferred or taken off charge. It is interesting that there is no FIR, investigation in the complaint yet, but the petitioners have already assumed that only those the CBI officers that were transferred or asked to go on leave will investigate the Rafale matter. Prashant Bhushan, Rahul Gandhi and others have already started a ‘save Alok Verma’ mission, the CBI director who was asked to go on leave till investigation on allegations against him are done.
Earlier this month, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan had met Alok Verma, and demanded probe into the Rafale deal. It was an unusual event, as generally politicians don’t approach the CBI directly requesting probe. Generally, people go to court or ask the government for CBI investigation.
Several petitions were already filed at the Supreme Court by several petitioners, but the top court had observed that the allegations “appear to be grossly inadequate”. The court had also refused to issue any notice to the government in the matter. However, the court wanted to know the steps taken by the government of India in taking the decision to purchase the Rafale jet. The court had clarified that it had not considered the allegations made by the petitioners in their respective petitions while seeking this information from the government. The court also said that details of pricing and technical information need be provided.