SC Reserves Judgment on Rafale Review Plea and Rahul Contempt Plea
Image used for representational purposes. 
Image used for representational purposes. (Photo: The Quint)
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SC Reserves Judgment on Rafale Review Plea and Rahul Contempt Plea

A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Sanjay Kaul and KM Joseph on Friday, 10 May, reserved its judgment on the Rafale review petition and the contempt petition against Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

Gandhi had on Wednesday, 8 May, tendered an “unconditional apology” to the Supreme Court for wrongfully attributing the 'chowkidar chor hai' remark in the Rafale verdict to the apex court.

Earlier on 6 May, the Supreme Court had adjourned the contempt case against Rahul Gandhi and slated the matter relating to the Rafale review petitions to 10 May. The bench had expressed surprise as to how the review pleas and the contempt petition against Gandhi were listed on different dates when it had earlier ordered that both the cases will be heard together.

Snapshotclose

  • On 10 April, the court had ruled that the classified documents accessed by media can be used as evidence
  • Hours later Rahul Gandhi used ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ slogan at a rally attributing it to the top court
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SC Reserves Judgment on Rahul Contempt Plea

The apex court has reserved the order on the contempt petition filed by BJP MP Meenakashi Lekhi, against Rahul Gandhi for attributing his ‘Chowkidar chor hai’ comment to Supreme Court.

Singhvi Says Rahul Gandhi is Apologetic About Wrongfully Attributing 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' to SC

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Rahul Gandhi, reiterates his stand says that Rahul Gandhi is apologetic for attributing ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ to the SupremeCourt.

Arguing that Gandhi expressed regret even before the court had issued a notice, Singhvi said the case deserves to be closed.

SC Begins Hearing Rahul Contempt Plea

Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, asks Rahul Gandhi to publicly apologise for attributing ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ remark to the apex court.

SC Reserves Judgment in Rafale Review Plea

Supreme Court has reserved its order on Rafale review petitions against its 14 December, 2018 judgement upholding the 36 Rafale jets' deal. Parties are allowed to submit additional written submissions within two weeks.

Attorney General KK Venugopal Arguing on Behalf of Govt

Arguing on behalf of the government, Attorney General KK Venugopal has said that the pricing of the Rafale deal was meant to be secret, as per the Inter-Governmental Agreement.

Venugopal also argues that the notes on procedure for the Rafale deal were submitted to the court at judges’ request.

CJI refuses AAP MP's Lawyer to Argue

CJI refuses to allow AAP MP Sanjay Singh’s lawyer to argue – says they had already informed him at a previous hearing they wouldn't hear him because of his derogatory comments about the court.

'Suppression of Material Information Is Grounds for Vitiation of a Judgment'

Prashant Bhushan says the Centre's failure to inform the court about the INT members’ dissent is a basis for reviewing the court's original Rafale verdict.

“Suppression of material information is grounds for vitiation of a judgment,” he said.

Deal Went Ahead Without Any Guarantee: Prashanth Bhushan

Prashant Bhushan says the Rafale deal went ahead without any sovereign or bank guarantee, only a letter of comfort from the French, which is of no comfort at all.

Bhushan points out that INT dissenters protested about dropping of sovereign guarantee, which had also been asked for by Law Ministry and Defence Ministry.

Govt Didn't Provide Full Details of the Decision Making Process: Bhushan

Bhushan moves on to the next issue where he argues that the govt didn’t provide the Supreme Court with full details of the proceedings of the Indian Negotiating Team (INT).

The Central Government didn't inform the court about the dissent note by three members of the INT, objecting to key aspects of the deal, says Bhushan.

Court Given False Information About Cabinet Committee Meetings: Bhushan

Prashant Bhushan says the court was given false information about meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

“Government note to court says the final meeting of the CCS on the Rafale Deal was in August 2016. But documents show they had another meeting in September 2016,” Bhushan says.

"The second piece of false information or concealment of material information was on the dropping of the 'Standard Clauses' for the deal, including anti-corruption clauses." Bhushan says

Bhushan argues that the clauses were dropped at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council in September 2016 - again something which he alleges the Centre concealed from the court.

"This alone is grounds to vitiate the judgment," Bhushan argues.

Govt Mislead the Court in Sealed Covers: Prashant Bhushan

Prashant Bhushan moves on to the factual errors in the Rafale verdict from December 2018, which he says arose because govt misled court in sealed cover notes.

Prashant Bhushan points out that the CAG report itself says the redaction of pricing details was unprecedented, had never been done before. "So how could the govt anticipate this was going to happen?" he asks.

SC's Original Judgment Doesn't Address the Plea: Prashant Bhushan

Prashant Bhushan begins by reiterating argument that the court's original Rafale judgment of 14 December doesn't address their plea for an investigation by CBI as per the Lalitha Kumari case, since their complaint to the CBI discloses a possible cognisable offence.

SC Begins Hearing Rafale Review Petitions

Supreme Court starts hearing on the review petitions against its judgement of 14 December, 2018 that dismissed the plea for probe into Rafale fighter jets deal 2016.

Supreme Court to Hear Pleas Seeking Rafale Review, Rahul Gandhi Contempt Petition on Friday

The Supreme Court will hear together on 10 May the pleas seeking review of its verdict on the Rafale fighter jet case, as well as the contempt petition against Congress President Rahul Gandhi for wrongly attributing to the apex court the "chokidar chor hai" remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Rahul Gandhi Tenders Unconditional Apology for Attributing 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' Remark to SC

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday, 8 May, tendered an unconditional apology in the Supreme Court for wrongfully attributing to the apex court the 'chowkidar chor hai' remark in the Rafale verdict.

Gandhi used the remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attack him on the Rafale issue.

In a fresh three-page affidavit, the Congress chief said he holds the Supreme Court in the "highest esteem and respect", and sought closure of the criminal contempt proceedings filed against him by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi.

"The deponent (Rahul Gandhi) unconditionally apologises for the wrongful attributions to this court," Gandhi said in his affidavit.

SC Adjourns Matters To 10 May

The Supreme Court has adjourned the matter to 10 May and ordered that it would now hear Congress President Rahul Gandhi's contempt and review pleas together.

CJI Gogoi asks about the Rahul Gandhi contempt petition. It appears that a wrong order was issued by the registry delinking that case and the review petitions, listing contempt for 10 May. "We are a little perplexed that the cases have been listed on separate dates."

Attorney General KK Venugopal says no notice issued on that. CJI chides him, saying he's responded to the request for production of documents without notice so why not this. No directions passed though.

SC to Take Up Rahul Gandhi Contempt Case, Rafale Review Petitions Today

The Supreme Court will be taking up the Rafale contempt case involving Congress President Rahul Gandhi, along with the review petitions concerning the fighter jet deal today.

Rahul Apologieses for Attributing 'Chowkidar' Jibe to SC

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday, 30 April, said that he will express apologies for attributing the 'chowkidar chor hai' jibe to the Supreme Court, via his lawyer Abishek Manu Singhvi. The SC has allowed Rahul to file a new affidavit on Monday, 6 May, apologising for the attribution.

“I have made three errors. I accept. I wrongly attributed the statements to My Lord. I apologised,” Rahul Gandhi said via his lawyer.

SC Asks Centre to File Affidavit by 4 May

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 30 April, adjourned the hearing of Rafale review petitions to 6 May, after the Centre sought time for filing counter affidavit in the matter.

Attorney General KK Venugopal had sought four weeks time to prepare a counter affidavit to respond to review petitions, perjury application and request for production of documents submitted by petitioners in the Rafale matter.

The apex court, however, only granted time till 4 May and posted the matter for hearing on 6 May.

Rahul Has Not Tendered Apology, Exhibited Remorse: Lekhi to SC

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has not tendered any "apology" or exhibited "remorse" in his explanation filed in the apex court over his remark on the Rafale case verdict, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi told the Supreme Court on Monday, 29 April.

The apex court is scheduled to hear the Lekhi's contempt petition on Tuesday.

"I state and submit that from the tone, tenor and the language used in the purported explanation of the alleged contemnor (Gandhi), it is clear that the alleged contemnor has not tendered any apology or exhibited any remorse in the affidavit," she said, as per PTI.

SC to Decide on Adjournment of Matter Today

On Monday, 29 April, the Centre requested permission from the court to submit a letter requesting an adjournment of the matter so that they could file an affidavit on it.

The apex court, however, did not pass any order on adjournment, though it has allowed the Centre to submit its request. It remains to be seen if the matter will be delayed or heard as per the schedule.

The Supreme Court’s last working day before the summer holidays begin is 10 May, so any delay in the hearing could mean it is not completed before then.

Also Read : SC to Hear Rafale Review Petitions on Tuesday: What to Expect

What Will be Argued in the Contempt Petition?

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi filed the contempt petition against Rahul Gandhi on 12 April, after Gandhi made a comment two days before that in which he said that “Supreme Court has accepted that there is some form of corruption in the Rafale deal and that ‘chowkidar ne chori karwayi hai’ (chowkidar PM Modi has facilitated theft).”

The court initially asked Gandhi to provide an explanation for this comment, with the CJI confirming that the court had said no such thing. Gandhi filed an affidavit on 22 April in which he clarified that he had incorrectly attributed the statement to the court in the heat of the moment – he made the statement after being informed about the interim order on 10 April.

He expressed regret for doing so, but said he stood by his view that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was involved in corrupt practices regarding the deal, and also pointed out that a number of BJP leaders had made misleading statements about the SC’s 14 December verdict, including that it gave the government a ‘clean chit’.

When the matter came up for hearing on 23 April, Gandhi’s lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi sought to make these same points and thanked the court for not issuing notice in the matter and taking it up fully. However, Lekhi’s lawyer, Mukul Rohatgi pressed the matter, and said it was serious. The CJI eventually decided to issue notice, and listed the contempt matter with the review petitions.

Gandhi filed a fresh affidavit on 29 April, making mostly the same arguments as his previous affidavit from a week ago.

What Will be Argued in the Review Petitions?

The review petitions have been filed by several of the original petitioners in the case before the Supreme Court last year. These include advocate ML Sharma and AAP MP Sanjay Singh, although the most prominent petition is the one filed by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, and former NDA cabinet ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie.

Their review petition makes the following arguments on why the SC’s decision on 14 December to not interfere with any aspects of the Rafale deal was incorrect:

  • The judgment ignored the plea by Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie for the court to direct the CBI to register and FIR and investigate the matter. Before filing their original petition, the three of them had first filed a complaint with the CBI alleging corruption in the deal – since this disclosed a cognizable offence, they argue that the CBI was mandated to register an FIR. The 14 December verdict does not address this plea.
  • The judgment contains “patent legal and factual errors”. They allege this was a result of the court accepting the government submissions made in a sealed cover. According to them, this meant the judges accepted that procedures had been broadly followed, that the CAG had submitted its report on the deal already, and even conflated the separate Reliance groups of Anil and Mukesh Ambani.
  • The judgment failed to consider several material facts that raised pertinent issues, such as the fact that there was no Acceptance of Necessity for the new 36 aircraft deal (the old AON from the IAF suggested a need for 126 aircraft). The judgment also skirted over the lack of a sovereign guarantee from France despite the objections to this from the Law Ministry that the petitioners brought on record, and the increase in benchmark price from 5.2 billion euros to 8.2 billion euros.

"Disturbing Trend of Bias" in Some Sections of Media: Justice KM Joseph

In a separate but concurring judgment in the Rafale case, Justice K M Joseph on Wednesday said that there was a “disturbing trend of bias” in some sections of the media, reported The Indian Express.

“If freedom is enjoyed by the Press without a deep sense of responsibility, it can weaken democracy. In some sections, there appears to be a disturbing trend of bias. Controlling business interests and political allegiances appear to erode the duty of dispassionate and impartial purveying of information”, he wrote in his judgment.

Saying that the media has a pivotal role in strengthening the country’s democracy, he said it must remain “unpolluted by considerations other than the truth.” He added that it holds and wields power over the people of the country.

The press cannot be biased and free at the same time, he wrote.

Rahul Gandhi's Statement is Contempt of Court: Sitharaman

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attacked Congress President Rahul Gandhi, saying that he his reaction to the SC’s judgement amounts to contempt of court.

Responding to Rahul’s statement that the SC has accepted that there is some form of corruption in the Rafale deal, Sitharaman said that the Court’s judgement deals only with the admissibility of certain documents in the review petition and that Rahul is misrepresenting the facts.

Petitioners Presenting Selective, Incomplete Picture: Defence Ministry

Reacting to the SC’s decision to allow admissibility of “classified” documents, the defence ministry has said that the petitioners are using documents with intention to present a selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations on a matter relating to national security and defence, news agency ANI reported.

“The documents presented by the petitioners are failing to bring out how the issues were addressed and resolved and necessary approvals of the competent authorities taken. These are selective and incomplete presentation of the facts and records by the petitioners,”the ministry said.

“The main concern of the government is relating to availability of sensitive and classified information concerning national Security in the public domain,”it also said, according to ANI.

KEY EVENT

SC Has Accepted There's Some Form of Corruption in Rafale Deal: Rahul Gandhi

Speaking after the SC dismissed the Centre’s preliminary objections to the Rafale review petitions and allowed the admissibility of three “classified” documents as evidence in the case, Congress President Rahul Gandhi was quoted as saying, “Supreme Court has accepted that there is some form of corruption in the Rafale deal and that ‘chowkidar ne chori karwayi hai’ (chowkidar PM Modi has facilitated the theft).”

Watch: Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala Addresses Media on Rafale Case

KEY EVENT

'Don't Worry Modi ji, Probe Will Take Place Now': Congress After SC's Rafale Decision

The Congress on Wednesday hailed the SC’s decision allowing leaked documents to be used by petitioners seeking review of the Rafale judgment, saying skeletons in the "scam" are tumbling out and now there is "no official secrets act" to hide behind for the Modi government.

KEY EVENT

'The Court Will See Whether the Govt Was Truthful or Not': Arun Shourie

Speaking after the SC order, Arun Shourie, who filed the review plea in the Rafale case, said that the court has accepted their plea and rejected the arguments of the government with all the judges concurring.

“Our argument was that because the documents relate to defence you must examine them. You asked for these evidence and we have provided it. So the court has accepted our pleas and rejected the arguments of the government.”
Arun Shourie

Shourie asserted that the petitioners are confident that they would get a good opportunity to put forward to things – the review petition regarding SC’s own initial judgment, as well as the perjury petition.

“The court will (now) see whether the government was truthful or not in regard to the assertions they made, in the two notes which they gave – sealed and unsealed. We have shown that both were full of falsehoods. So the court will consider those. No doubt on that. That’s what the CJI has indicated.”
Arun Shourie
KEY EVENT

SC Dismisses Centre's Preliminary Objections in Rafale Case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the Centre’s preliminary objections to the Rafale review petitions and allowed admissibility of three “classified” documents as evidence in re-examining the Rafale order.

Review petitions against its 14 December verdict dismissing all petitions against procurement of Rafale jets will be decided on merits, the apex court said.

The court further said that it will now fix the date for hearing review petitions on Rafale.

The Case So Far and What Should Be Expected

During hearings which concluded on 14 March, Attorney General KK Venugopal had argued that certain documents which the petitioners were trying to rely on were confidential and had been “stolen” from the Defence Ministry.

He also said the petitioners and journalists who had used these documents had violated the Official Secrets Act. After a bench of judges questioned this, Venugopal pointed out that official government records not made public cannot be admitted as evidence in court without the permission of a relevant government officer.

In light of this, the judges will now be considering only the limited question of admissibility of the ‘secret’ documents. This could have an impact on the review process, since the documents included damning new information revealed by The Hindu’s N Ram and other journalists.

However, in the event the court decides in the government’s favour, they will still be able to raise some of their other arguments without any prejudice.

Also Read : Rafale Documents ‘Stolen’ From Defence Ministry: Govt Tells SC

Possibility of Majority and Minority Judgment

Two judgments will be presented by the bench: one by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, and one by Justice KM Joseph. This could mean that there will be a majority and a minority judgment. It is not known whose judgment the third member of the bench, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, has agreed with.

Also Read : Modi Govt Unsettled by Rafale Review? 5 Takeaways From SC Hearing

Decision on Rafale Review Petitions to be Pronounced on 10 April

The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, 10 April, will pronounce its decision on the preliminary objections raised by the Centre to the Rafale review petitions, on whether or not to admit certain ‘confidential’ documents as evidence when conducting the review.

Also Read : Official Secrets Act Is a Blot on India’s Democracy – Will SC Act?

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