Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan has submitted a rejoinder affidavit at the Supreme Court, in the review petition filed against the Rafale deal. The rejoinder was filed as a response to reply of the union government in the case, as instructed by the court.
The affidavit rejects the three broad contentions made by the government. The government had said that as the matter pertains to national security, the scope of judicial review is limited; petitioners cannot ask for a “roving and fishing inquiry” based on subsequent media reports; and CAG has not found any wrongdoing in the contract in its final report after considering all records. Prashant Bhushan says that these arguments made by the government are not justified.
The affidavit says that if the complaint prima facie discloses a cognizable offence then an FIR has to be mandatorily registered and investigated. But in this case, CBI did not take any action on the complaint of the petitioners.
Prashant Bhushan states that the court had dismissed their petition as if the petitioners were asking for a cancellation or review of the contract. The affidavit says that the deal was granted after the announcement about the same was made, and PMO officials were doing parallel negotiations which were objected by the defence ministry. It also alleges that several clauses applicable for defence purchases were removed in the deal, like Sovereign Guarantee and Seat of Arbitration.
The affidavit also says that domain experts in the Indian Negotiation Team had strongly objected to the increase in benchmark price, delivery schedule, sovereign guarantee, seat of arbitration and provisions in offset contract.
Prashant Bhushan alleges that the government has misled the government in various aspects of the deal in its response which was submitted in a sealed cover. He also accuses the government of suppressing information and says that the government obtained the judgement on the basis of fraud.
It can be seen that in the rejoinder affidavit, Prashant Bhushan has not brought any new allegation, he is merely repeating the same complaints which have comprehensibly rebutted already. It is on record that the Indian Negotiation Team submitted its decision unanimously, without any dissent. What the anti-Rafale petitioners are relying on are details of meetings when many things are discussed, objected, accepted etc. But the final decision of such meetings matter, not how those decisions were arrived at. Regarding the dropping of certain provisions, it is a known fact that in government to government contracts, provisions like sovereign guarantee are regularly dropped, and they were dropped in previous similar defence deals. It was not something that was done for the first time in the Rafale deal. The allegations of defence ministry objecting to PMO’s alleged interference has been dismissed by former defence minister late Manohar Parrikar. Even the stolen document submitted by the petitioners had Parrikar’s note on it dismissing the apprehensions of an official, who was not even part of the negotiating team.
The Supreme Court will next hear the case on May 10. The Contempt case against Rahul Gandhi for attributing chowkidar chor hai will also be heard together with the main review petition. Yesterday the Congress president submitted his unconditional apology to the apex court for his comments.