Rafale deal: Supreme Court allows withdrawal of plea seeking probe, cancel of purchase

August 29, 2022 10:27 pm | Updated 10:28 pm IST

A view of a Rafale jet.

A view of a Rafale jet. | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed advocate M.L. Sharma to withdraw his plea to summon documents from French investigation agency, Agence Francaise Anticorruption (AFA), allegedly showing that aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation paid €1 million to an Indian company in connection with the 2016 Indo-French Rafale deal.

“Having gone through the facts and circumstances, no case is made out to exercise jurisdiction,” a Bench of Chief Justice U.U. Lalit and S. Ravindra Bhat concluded in its order.

The petition had made Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the first respondent, followed by Sushen Mohan Gupta, Defsys Solutions Private Limited, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited, the Centre, and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

During the short hearing Sharma said his petition was filed in 2021. Time has passed and he would focus solely on urging the court to issue a Letter Rogatory to summon the document allegedly showing the payment of the money.

“The document should be called forth. The matter is serious,” Sharma submitted.

The petition had originally urged the top court to order the registration of an F.I.R. under various offences, including cheating, criminal breach of trust, sections under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and the Official Secrets Act.

It had urged the court to issue “appropriate writ direction for cancelling/quashing agreement of September 23, 2016 for the purchase of 36 Rafale jet fighters from Dassault France for being hit by fraud, corruption, and offence under the Official Secrets Act and to recover entire advanced money with penalty and to blacklist Dassault”. Sharma said the first four respondents named in the petition should be prosecuted.

“To prosecute them under the supervision of this court coupled with further direction to issue appropriate writ for quashing inter-government agreement of September 2016, which was the outcome of bribe/corruption,” the petition had said.

Supreme Court lists bail plea filed by Kerala journalist Sidhique Kappan for final disposal on September 9

The Supreme Court on August 29 listed a plea for bail filed by Kerala journalist Sidhique Kappan, who is accused under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and has spent two years in jail, for final disposal on September 9.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice U. U. Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat issued notice to the State of Uttar Pradesh and directed it to file a counter to the bail plea by Kappan.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Dushyant Dave and advocate Haris Beeran, all for Kappan, submitted that he had been incarcerated since October 6, 2020.

Sibal argued that his client was charged under UAPA on the ground that an amount of ₹45,000 was deposited with him by the Popular Front of India (PFI) for “terrorist activities”. “PFI is not a terror organisation. There is no evidence on who deposited the money. This is only a blank allegation,” Sibal argued.

He said Kappan has “nothing to do with PFI”. He had only previously worked as a journalist for a paper said to be associated with PFI. The petition contended that Kappan has been incarcerated on “trumped-up charges” merely due to his zest to discharge his professional duty to report on the “infamous case” of the alleged rape and murder of a Dalit girl at Hathras in Uttar Pradesh in 2020. He was picked up while en route in a car to Hathras on October 5, 2020.

“Who were the other persons with him in the car?” Chief Justice Lalit asked.

“One was the driver, who got bail. The other two were PFI activists, who are still in custody and challenging the charges against them,” Sibal said.

Uttar Pradesh Additional Advocate General Garima Parshad countered that there were eight accused persons in the case. Only the driver has been released on bail. One of the accused is connected to the Delhi riots and the other to the Bulandshahr riots.

“Charge sheet has been filed way back. One was released on bail and he did not appear in court and a non bailable warrant was issued,” Parshad submitted.

Sibal said the charge sheet is 5,000 pages long and only a few pages have been shared with the accused. The court asked the State government to note all their arguments in detail in their counter and gave the petitioner time to file a rejoinder before the next hearing.

Congress needs medicines from doctors but getting treated by compounders, says Ghulam Nabi Azad 

An ailing Congress needed medicines from doctors but the party is being treated by compounder, said Ghulam Nabi Azad in a fresh attack on his former party.

Interacting with reporters at his Delhi residence, Azad said former party chief Rahul Gandhi does not have the aptitude or interest in politics and the top leadership was not interested in setting things right.

Hitting back, Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh said Azad has been ‘tasked’ to slander his former party.

Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad addressing the media at his residence in New Delhi on August 29, 2022

Former Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad addressing the media at his residence in New Delhi on August 29, 2022 | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

“I can only give my best wishes to the Congress, but the Congress needs medicines more than my wishes. And, these medicines are being provided to the Congress by compounders instead of doctors and there is a need for specialists,”Azad told reporters.

He targeted the party’s top leadership for promoting such leaders who force people to leave rather than unite them.

“The party leadership has no time for setting things right in the party. The Congress is giving such leaders in states and promoting those who are making people quit the organisation rather than uniting them with the party,” Azad noted.

Keeping up the attack on Gandhi, he said, “It seems he does not have the aptitude for politics, as we tried to make him into a leader and made many efforts in this regard”.

He denied reports that he would be joining the BJP and reiterated that he will be floating his own party as Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) could be announced anytime.

“The BJP cannot help me in politics in Jammu and Kashmir. The BJP has a separate constituency. Those spreading such misinformation are playing into BJP’s hands and this is Congress propaganda against me,” he said.

On post-poll alliance, he said there are other parties also and the new organisation can align with them too. Without naming anyone, he blamed Congress leaders who do “clerical work” and “plant stories against veterans”.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emotional speech at his Rajya Sabha farewell was given a different twist by some “illiterate” Congressmen and their emotions expressed in the House were about the tragedy and not for each other.

“I assumed that Modi sahab was a crude man as he did not have children or his own family and would not care but at least he has shown humanity,” he said while narrating the heart-rending story of a big explosion inside a bus with tourists from Gujarat.

Responding to Azad, Ramesh tweeted, ”After such a long career, courtesy entirely the party he’s been tasked to slander, by giving interviews indiscriminately, Azad diminishes himself further. What’s he afraid of that he’s justifying his treachery every minute? He can be easily exposed but why stoop to his level”.

On Friday, Azad had ended his five-decade association with the party after blaming Gandhi for “demolishing” its entire consultative mechanism.

Chinese troops stop Indian graziers in Ladakh’s Demchok 

Indian graziers were stopped by the Chinese army at Demchok in Ladakh on August 21, a senior government official said. According to the official, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) objected to the presence of graziers within India’s perception of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) near Saddle Pass at CNN junction in Demchok. The incident was followed by a couple of meetings between the commanders of the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA to resolve the issue.

The graziers have been frequenting the area and there was a minor scuffle in 2019 also, said the official. “This time when the graziers went with the livestock, the Chinese objected that this was their territory. The issue was raised with the Chinese,” the official said.

A defence source said there was no face-off between the two armies. “It was a routine interaction between local commanders on the ground level to resolve issues at the local level to prevent escalation and maintain peace and tranquility on the LAC. This keeps happening regularly all along the LAC as part of the agreed protocols,” the source said.

Another official added that India and China are engaged in eye-ball to eye-ball positions in the area since April 2020. Many areas in the sector have become “no patrolling zones” post-Galwan incident on June 15, 2020, when as many as 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with the Chinese PLA.

In 2018, China had pitched tents metres away from the Charding Nilung Nallah in Demchok or the CNN junction. Indian and Chinese troops are positioned in close proximity at multiple locations along the undefined LAC in Eastern Ladakh for more than two years. While several rounds of talks at the diplomatic and military level have eased the standoff at a few points turning the areas into no-patrolling zones, there are others where the build-up continues.

India and China have held 16 rounds of meetings of Senior Commanders so far. Both sides failed to achieve a breakthrough for disengagement at Patrolling Point 15 in the Hot Springs area. With disengagement completed on the north and south bank of Pangong Tso, a phased disengagement is yet to take place in other friction areas in Eastern Ladakh, including Depsang and Demchok sectors.

Reliance Jio to invest ₹2 lakh crore in 5G; rollout in metros by Diwali

Reliance Jio has earmarked ₹2 lakh crore investment for 5G network and plans to launch the high-speed services in key cities by Diwali, Reliance Industries Ltd. chairman Mukesh Ambani said on Monday.

While speaking at Reliance Industries’ 45th annual general meeting, Ambani said Jio will roll out 5G services across India by December 2023. “To build our pan-India true 5G network, we have committed a total investment of ₹2 lakh crore. Jio has prepared the fastest ever and most ambitious 5G rollout plan for a country of our size. Within the next two months. That is by Diwali, we will launch Jio 5G across multiple key cities including metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata,” he said.

Ambani said subsequently the company plans to increase Jio 5G footprint month-on-month until December 2023, to deliver Jio 5G to every town, every taluka and every tehsil of the country.

After buying spectrum worth ₹88,078 crore in the auctions, Reliance Jio said earlier this month it is gearing up to roll out an advanced 5G network to make India a global leader in digital connectivity and solutions.

The company has partnered with Qualcomm to develop 5G solutions, Ambani said. He said the firm is partnering with Google to develop ultra-affordable 5G smartphones and Google Cloud.

It has now forged a collaboration with Qualcomm to develop a 5G solution for India, which can be taken to the rest of the world, he said.

The company had emphasised that it is fully ready for 5G rollout in the shortest period of time, backed by nationwide fibre presence, an all-IP network with no legacy infrastructure, an indigenous 5G stack and strong global partnerships across the technology ecosystem.

Ambani during the AGM said with 5G in place, Jio will launch billions of smart sensors with connected intelligence that will trigger the Internet of Things and fuel the fourth Industrial Revolution. “It will connect every one, every place and everything with the highest quality and most affordable data,” he said. Ambani said Jio made strong progress in fibre and FTTH deployment with pan-India fibre-optic network of more than 11 lakh route kilometres.

He said two out of every three new fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) customers are choosing JioFiber. In about two years of commercial rollout of its fixed-line broadband services, Jio toppled 20-year-old State-run telecom company BSNL as top service provider in the segment in January. “India is ranked 138th in the world in fixed broadband adoption. Jio will take India to be among the top 10 globally in fixed broadband adoption,” Ambani said.

In Brief

A fuel leak and then an engine problem during final liftoff preparations led NASA to call off the launch of its mighty new moon rocket Monday on a shakedown flight with three test dummies aboard. The next launch attempt will not take place until Friday at the earliest and could be off until next month. The launch, when it happens, will be the first flight in NASA’s 21st-century moon-exploration program, named Artemis after Apollo’s mythological twin sister. Assuming the test goes well, astronauts will climb aboard for the second flight and fly around the moon and back as soon as 2024. A two-person lunar landing could follow by the end of 2025.

Evening Wrap will return tomorrow 

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