Rafale case: Rahul calls for joint parliamentary committee probe, Congress follows lead


New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal after the Supreme Court gave clean chit to the Modi government on the purchase of 36 fully loaded Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation.

Rahul Gandhi added that despite what it appears to be, the SC verdict left open a "huge door" for investigation.

The apex court rejected the plea for registration of an FIR by the CBI for alleged commission of cognisable offence in the deal.

Following Rahul Gandhi's lead, the Congress claimed that the observation of SC judge K M Joseph in the Rafale case has paved the way for a "comprehensive criminal investigation" into the alleged scam.

The party also called for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the fighter jet deal holding that the Supreme Court judgment is not a clean chit but paves way for full investigation.

It said the party's 'ChowkidaarChorHai' slogan launched during Lok Sabha polls will hold ground till the time the veil off the entire deal is not taken off through an independent probe.

Reacting on Twitter, Gandhi used the hashtag "BJPLiesOnRafale" to say, "Justice Joseph of the Supreme Court has opened a huge door into investigation of the RAFALE scam. An investigation must now begin in full earnest. A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) must also be set up to probe this scam."

Gandhi also cited para 86 of the Supreme Court judgement where Justice Joseph, who wrote a separate judgement, said he agreed with the main verdict written by Justice S K Kaul subject to certain aspects on which he has given his own reasons.

Justice Joseph said the verdict dismissing the pleas seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in Rafale fighter jet deal "would not stand in the way" of the CBI from taking action as per the law on the complaint for lodging of an FIR.

It is "beyond dispute" that offences mentioned in the complaint filed by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan are "cognisable", he said.

He noted that discovery of facts by a police officer carrying out an investigation is completely different from findings of facts given in a judicial review by a court and "the entire proceedings are completely different".

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Congress response

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the Supreme Court judgement has paved the way for a comprehensive criminal investigation into Rafale "scam" but the BJP government was "misleading" the country on the impact of the verdict.

The judgement is not a clean chit, but paves way for full investigation, he said, asking the government if it had the courage to order an independent probe.

Surjewala said the answer cannot be found through a court judgement but through a detailed fact-finding investigation by the JPC.

"Rather than indulging in celebrations, BJP government should agree to a JPC investigation. Otherwise, it will be proved beyond doubt that BJP government is not 'corruption free and actually wants to remain 'investigation free'," he told reporters.

"The people of India are asking answers on whether so-called 'independent investigating agencies', including CBI now proceed to investigate the Rafale 'scam', after the Supreme Court has made it clear that its judgement will not come in the way of investigation.

"Will the BJP government show the courage to grant sanction to prosecute and investigate the Rafale scam under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Will the Prime Minister and BJP government now concede to a full-fledged probe by a 'Joint Parliamentary Committee' (JPC)," he said.

Sources said the Congress may raise the issue during the Parliament session in consonance with other like-minded parties.

Surjewala said till the verdict of an impartial JPC investigation is placed in public domain, the Rafale deal will continue to be questioned "for the stink of corruption, collusion and crony capitalism, hurting national interests, causing loss to public exchequer, murdering transparency, making mockery of Make-in-India and blocking technology transfer".

The Congress's remarks came after the Supreme Court gave clean chit to the Modi government on the purchase of 36 fully-loaded Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation, rejecting the plea for registration of an FIR by the CBI for alleged commission of cognisable offence in the deal.

The apex court dismissed the pleas seeking review of the December 14, 2018 verdict in which it had said that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of the Rafale fighter jets.

"We find the review petitions are without any merit," said a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Kaul and Joseph.

Congress leader Javeer Shergill said it has become clear that the judgement of the court would not stand 'in the way of' the investigating agency and taking action (para 86 of today's review judgment).

"As expected and as usual, BJP government and its ministers are misleading the nation on the impact of the judgement. The Supreme Court judgement is not a 'clean chit' but paves the way for 'full investigation'. The layers of corruption in the Rafale scam can be answered only through a fact-finding impartial JPC investigation," Shergill said.

He also posed nine questions to the BJP government, saying these continue to remain unanswered till date.

"Why did BJP government supersede HAL in awarding Rs 30,000 crore 'Offset Contract' to benefit cronies? Why purchase a Rs 526 crore Rafale for a price of Rs 1670 crore and thereby cause a loss of Rs 41,205 crore? Why was 'National Security' compromised by reducing the number of aircraft from 126 to 36?

"Why was Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) violated and Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) bypassed by Prime Minister at the time of announcing purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft? Why did BJP government sacrifice 'Transfer of Technology to India' for manufacture of Rafale aircraft," he said.

Surjewala said the Supreme Court judgement has also re-affirmed the Congress party's stance that the court has 'limited jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution' and court is not the appropriate forum to decide the issues of contractual corruption, malicious bungling in prices, altered specifications, crony capitalism and violation of the mandatory provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure.

(With inputs from PTI and IANS.)