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Rafale deal case: Centre ‘deliberately misled’ court, say petitioners

Advocate Prashant Bhushan (right) with Arun Shourie (left) and Yashwant Sinha, addressing a press conference, in New Delhi. File photo   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

The petitioners in the Rafale deal case accused the government of having “wilfully and deliberately misled” the Supreme Court by feeding it untruths which amounted to “wholesale fraud”.

This is part of 41-page written submissions filed by the petitioners, including former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan. The written submissions covered points raised by the petitioners for initiating a case of perjury against officials responsible for “suppressing the facts” of the Rafale purchase. It also addressed issues raised for reviewing the apex court’s December 14 judgment which had upheld the purchase.

 

Instead of providing the court with the original and complete records of the deal for 36 Rafale jets from M/s Dassault Aviation in France, the government saw the court make do with two notes filed in sealed covers, the petitioners contended.

“It 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,” the submissions said.

“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,” the petitioners argued.

“The falsehoods and suppression of facts were so extensive that they amount to wholesale fraud: and a judgment [December 14] obtained by fraud is ipso facto void, non est.”

'Onus on government'

The petitioners argued that a duty was cast on the government “to furnish the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”.

The submissions pointed out several instances, including a press release, which according to the Supreme Court in its judgment, suggested that there was “possibly an arrangement between the parent Reliance company and Dassault starting from 2012”.

“This is an obvious error. The Reliance company that entered into an offset arrangement with Dassault first entered the defence sector only in December, 2014. The government’s note thus deliberately confounded “Reliance Industries” with “Reliance Infrastructure” and thereby misled the court into committing an embarrassing error,” the petitioners contended.

They also pointed out how the government had kept the court in the dark about the “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office while the formal talks were on.

Further, they alleged that “notwithstanding objections of the Ministry of Defence and the mandatory provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval again interfered without mandate and conducted negotiations with the French in Paris on 12.01.2016 and 13.01.2016 on issues of Bank Guarantee, Sovereign Guarantee, Seat of Arbitration, etc”.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had reserved the review and application for perjury on May 10 for judgment.

On the last day of hearing, the Bench asked the government why there was still no FIR registered on a corruption complaint made in October to the CBI in connection with the deal.

“Question here is whether you are obliged under the law to register an FIR when a complaint is made?” Justice Joseph had asked Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal on Friday.

The complaint was made in October under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Justice Joseph had referred to a Constitution Bench judgment in the Lalithakumari case, which held that the police or a statutory authority like the CBI was duty-bound to file an FIR and investigate the complaint. If later, no prima facie case was made out, the probe could be closed and a copy of the report given to the complainant.


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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 11:33:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rafale-deal-case-centre-deliberately-misled-court-say-petitioners/article27204906.ece

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