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Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie demand CBI probe into Rafale deal, say SC verdict clears way

Stating Justice K.M. Joseph's judgment that the CBI can still take lawful action, Bhushan and Shourie said the agency should launch an independent inquiry.

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New Delhi: A day after the Supreme Court gave clean chit to the Narendra Modi government and dismissed a batch of review petitions in the Rafale fighter jets deal, advocate Prashant Bhushan and former union minister Arun Shourie Friday said the CBI should launch an independent inquiry into the case, as enabled by one of the judges.

They were referring to Justice K.M Joseph’s judgment Thursday which said the CBI can still take lawful action, provided the agency gets approval under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The bench delivering the Rafale judgment consisted of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S.K. Paul and Justice Joseph.

Former union minister Yashwant Sinha was to also attend the press conference that was jointly addressed by Bhushan and Shourie Friday, but could not make it at the last moment.

Bhushan, Shourie and Sinha had, in February this year, filed review pleas, demanding the top court to reverse its verdict and initiate a probe into the dealings to acquire the 36 Rafale fighter jets.

Also read: SC dismisses Rafale review but Justice Joseph says CBI can still take lawful action

‘Monumental scandal’

Calling it a “monumental scandal”, Bhushan said the SC’s judgement has paved the way for further investigation into the Rafale deal that has a vital bearing on India’s national security.

The advocate also said Joseph’s verdict has countered the false perception created by the central government and the BJP that no CBI inquiry would take place on the petitioners’ complaint.

He read out a part of Joseph’s verdict: “..however, it is my view that the judgment sought to be reviewed, would not stand in the way of the first respondent. in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 298 of 2018 from taking action on Exhibit P1-complaint in accordance with law and subject to first respondent obtaining previous approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act”.

Explaining the judgment further, Bhushan said the CBI will now have to take permission of the government because the Prevention of Corruption Act has since been amended.

‘Order FIR in Rafale deal’

On 4 October 2018, Bhushan, Shourie and Sinha had also moved the SC seeking the registration of an FIR into the Rafale deal.

“In our complaint…we brought out the charges against Mr Modi and Mr Anil Ambani under the Prevention of Corruption Act and sought the registration of an FIR and investigation into the deal,” Bhushan said.

“If it (CBI) is not registering an FIR, it will have to inform and give us the reason. If they register, a preliminary inquiry has to be done within seven days…If it seeks the permission of the government and the latter doesn’t approve, it has to tell us. So the CBI has to tell us as to what it is doing after the latest judgment.”

Shourie also said the top court’s “self-restraint”, in its 14 December 2018 verdict, and the government’s amendment of Section 17(A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act was a “dangerous combination”. Section 17(A) of the Prevention of Corruption Act says prior permission should be taken from the government for an investigation.

He also said the three men had never questioned “technical competence” of the Rafale jets, or that the deal should not have gone to French company Dassault Aviation, but the process of handing out the deal was wrong.

Also read: Rafale verdict vindicates govt, will finally bury controversy, says ex-IAF chief Dhanoa


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