NEW DELHI—The Supreme Court’s review judgement has “paved the way for further investigation” by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the controversia Rafale aircraft deal, said senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party member Arun Shourie on Friday afternoon.
Speaking at the Press Club of India in New Delhi, Bhushan and Shourie cited the concurring judgement of Justice K M Joseph to argue that though the Supreme Court had dismissed their petition, it had opened the door for a CBI inquiry into the Rafale aircraft deal—something they have been demanding for the past year.
Bhushan cited three specific paragraphs from Justice Joseph’s minority judgement to argue that, even if it is a minority judgement and the main judgement authored by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi dismissed the review petition, the CBI is now legally bound to investigate the controversial Rafale aircraft deal.
“You see, there is a misconception. Some people feel that this judgement is only of one judge, Justice Joseph. And the majority consisting of Justice Kaul and Chief Justice Gogoi dismissed the review. Yes, they have dismissed the review but Justice Kaul and Justice Gogoi have not said anything to the contrary to what Justice Joseph has said about the legal necessity of an FIR being registered and the matter being investigated by the CBI; of the imperative legal need and the command of the constitution bench in the Lalita Kumari case,” explained Bhushan while speaking with reporters.
The senior lawyer was pointing to the fact that in Lalita Kumari v. Government of Uttar Pradesh and others case, the Supreme Court mandated the registration of a First Investigation Report if a police officer receives information regarding a cognizable offence.
In the majority judgement, the SC had said that it found no merit in the review petitions and dismissed them.
While agreeing with this, in his judgement, Justice Joseph went further and wrote that the CBI “is expected to act completely independent of the government of the day” and stated that the premier investigation agency should “take a decision in terms of what is laid down” in the Lalita Kumari case. The Judge also noted that the offences mentioned in Bhushan’s complaint are “cognizable offences”.
The Congress party had also quoted from these observations on Thursday to demand an investigation into the Rafale deal. The ruling BJP, though, had focused on the SC’s observations about former Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s statements relating to the Rafale aircraft deal.
On Friday, however, Bhushan latched on to Justice Joseph’s observations and said, “We hope and expect that the CBI will now move in view of this judgement, which is binding on the CBI.”
Further he also said that the CBI director should move to seek permission from the union government to probe the deal as mandated in the recently amended Prevention of Corruption Act by the introduction of section 17A.
“We are now asking the CBI Director to move in this matter, seek permission of the government, and now we call upon the government to grant permission to the CBI. After all, if they have done nothing wrong, if they are totally clean and above board, why should they have any difficulty in having the matter investigated especially by an agency which is considered to be a caged parrot of the government?” he said.
On his part, former cabinet minister Arun Shourie criticised the “self restraint” of the Supreme Court while adjudicating their petitions and also not declaring section 17A unconstitutional.