In a massive win for the government and an equally significant loss for the opposition in the allegations over the Rafale deal, the Supreme Court has delivered a massive victory to the Modi government by dismissing all petitions seeking a court-monitored inquiry into the government-to-government deal between India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
Pronouncing its verdict on petitions by Prashant Bhushan and others, the CJI-led three-judge bench of the Supreme Court said that it had examined the petitions along three aspects after having first tried to find out the power of judicial reviews for defence matters.
On the first matter, the decision making process, the CJI said: 'On the decision making process we are satisfied. There is no occasion to set aside the contract. These are contracts for defence procurement. Broadly the process has been followed. Quality of aircraft is not in question Metre conjecture is of no use.'
He added, 'We can't sit in judgment for going to purchase 36 aircraft or 126. Our country can't be unprepared for fifth generation of aircraft.'
On the second, i.e. pricing, he said: 'We have examined the pricing closely. Price details official responders claim better advantage. It's not the job of the court to look into pricing. We say no more as the matter has to be confidential.'
On the third matter, i.e. offset, the CJI said that it is not in the area of the Supreme Court to see this.
Having inclined with the government on all three counts, the CJI said that there would be no intervention in the Rafale deal, adding 'Perception of individuals can't be roving', and dismissed the Rafale petitions.
The Supreme Court's dismissal of the pleas comes as a massive setback to Rahul Gandhi in particular. The Congress president has been insistent in his allegations against the Rafale deal, calling it a scam and turning it into a major poll plank. He has raised it in multiple arenas, from Parliament during the no-confidence motion against the Modi government, to poll rallies. His party leader Navjot Singh Sidhu even raised it in Pakistan during the Kartarpur corridor's inauguration.
A number of reactions have come in following the massive verdict at the Supreme Court:
In Parliament, demands have been made for Rahul Gandhi to apologise ('Rahul Gandhi maafi maango')
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh: 'It was crystal clear before only. The Congress distracted everyone over Rafale. It's now cleared by the court also.'
'We were confident before itself. We knew it was a fair deal but the Congress only distracted everyone. SC has cleared today, not there are no ifs and buts.'
Union Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted: Satyamev Jayate: Once again, Rahul Gandhi's blatant lies stand exposed. Supreme Court has dismissed any probe into the Rafale Deal. The entire nation has been lied to for political mileage #SCNailsRaGaLies
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who was one of the petitioners, however, said: It's an unfortunate decision by the Supreme Court. In our view it is an incorrect judgment. We will see whether to file a review petition or not. But we can't stop this campaign.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad: India was in need of effective fighter aircraft. I am very happy with the Supreme Court verdict today.
The apex court was pronouncing its verdict that had been reserved on November 14 on a batch of pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the deal.
Advocate M L Sharma was the first petitioner in the case. Later, another lawyer Vineet Dhanda had moved the apex court with the plea for court-monitored probe into the deal. AAP leader Sanjay Singh has also filed a petition against the fighter jet deal. After the three petitions were filed, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie along with activist advocate Prashant Bhushan had moved the apex court with a plea for a direction to the CBI to register FIR for alleged irregularities in the deal.
The Centre has defended the multi-billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets and opposed public disclosure of the pricing details.
India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The estimated cost of the deal is Rs 58,000 crore.
The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation