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Supreme Court had recently agreed to hear in open court a clutch of petitions that had sought a review of its controversial December 14 Rafale deal verdict

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court will, on March 6 (Wednesday), hear a clutch of petitions that have sought a review of the controversial December 14 verdict of the top court which had dismissed pleas for a probe into the alleged irregularities committed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government while negotiating the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph had recently agreed to hear the review petitions, including those filed by former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and Aam Aadmi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, in open court.

The petitions were filed in wake of a series of investigative news stories reported by The Hindu newspaper which indicated that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was directly involved in parallel negotiations with the French government and Dassault Aviation for finalizing the Rafale deal though the Centre had told the Supreme Court, in December, that the negotiations were solely carried out by the Union defence ministry’s Indian Negotiating Team.

Further, the Supreme Court, while dismissing calls for a probe into the deal, had in its December 14 verdict, had referred to the Centre’s claim that a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) had found no irregularity in the deal and a Parliamentary committee too had upheld the auditor’s view. However, it was highlighted immediately after the December 14 verdict by Opposition leaders and those crying foul over the deal that the C&AG had not, at the time, finalized its audit report on the Rafale deal and that the Centre had deliberately misled the Supreme Court.

The C&AG report on the Rafale Deal, with details of the pricing of the jets redacted, was tabled in Parliament on February 13, nearly two months after the Supreme Court verdict relied on its purported findings to give the Centre a clean chit. The C&AG report also highlighted several discrepancies with regard to the deal which the petitioners have now raised in their review petitions.

The review petitions will be taken up after the court completes its proceedings in another crucial matter, listed before a Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi, related to the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi title suit. The Constitution Bench is expected to deliver its order, on March 6, on whether or not it would direct a court-monitored mediation of the long-pending Ayodhya land dispute. The cause list for March 6, uploaded on the apex court’s website, states that the review petitions will be taken up “if the Constitution Bench does not sit for any reason or hearing in the matter listed before the Constitution Bench is over.”

— India Legal Bureau

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