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Plea in SC seeks inquiry into Rafale deal in light of reports by French news portal

Plea is outcome of an investigation by French anti-corruption agency, Agence Française Anticorruption (AGA), wherein it was declared that Dassault paid bribe of 1 million Euros to middlemen in India

Supreme Court of India (File photo)
Supreme Court of India (File photo)

NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to list after two weeks a PIL seeking inquiry into the Rafale deal in the light of recent reports in a French news portal alleging payment of bribe by Dassault Aviation to an Indian middleman.

Advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, who filed by petition, mentioned the matter before the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde today, which agreed to list the matter after two weeks, as per a report carried by Live Law.

In his petition, Sharma seeks directions to quash the deal to procure 36 fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation as an "outcome of corruption and violation of Articles 13, 21, and 253 of the Constitution of India".

Sharma has further prayed for an investigation to be conducted by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after registration of an FIR against Respondent Nos. 1 and 2, which includes current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under PC Act of 1988, read with Sections 409, 420 and 120-B of IPC and Section 3 of the Official Secret Act, 1923. He has sought for the report to be filed before the apex court.

The plea is an outcome of an investigation report by France's anti-corruption agency, Agence Française Anticorruption (AGA), wherein it was declared that Dassault had paid a bribe of 1 million Euros to middlemen in India.

"Due to political pressure, prosecution upon AFA's report has been suspended/stayed. It's a serious offence under Secret Act, 1923, injuries financial and defence to the country. It has violated Art. 21 and 13 of the Constitution of India", submits the plea and calls for the investigation report to be brought before the court. Delineating the sequence of events, the plea raises the questions as to whether the impugned agreement, being an "outcome of bribe and stolen secret papers of jet fighters from Defence Ministry is liable to be quashed or not", whether the Respondents are to be prosecuted under Section 3 of the Official Secrets Act, read with Sections 420, 120B and 409 of IPC and the PC Act, and whether the impugned agreement can be treated as a treaty between the two countries or a valid international agreement within Article 102 of the UN Charter.

Contending that the contract was procured by fraud and corruption, and is therefore void ab-initio, the plea seeks quashing of the same.

Sharma had filed a writ petition in 2018 seeking enquiry into the Rafale deal, which was dismissed in December 2018.

Later, in November 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed review petitions that had been filed against the December 14, 2018 judgement which declined to order probe into the corruption allegations regarding the deal to procure 36 Rafale jets by Indian Government from the French company Dassault Aviation.

A Bench comprising of then CJI Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph had observed that the review petition filed by Advocate Prashant Bhushan, former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie lacked merits. The review pleas had been filed on the ground that certain documents had been leaked by the media which showcased that the government had suppressed material information from the court.

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