While Justice K.M. Joseph in his separate judgment on the Rafale Review Petitions on Thursday concurred with the views of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S.M. Kaul on the Bench, he also declared that the CBI was free to investigate the charges but prosecution in such a case needed to be obtained first.
Justice Joseph, therefore, concurred with the other two judges that there was limited scope for judicial review at this stage and the Supreme Court could not order a roving inquiry into the deal.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi soon tweeted, Justice Joseph of the Supreme Court has opened a huge door into investigation of the RAFALE scam. An investigation must now begin in full earnest. A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) must also be set up to probe this scam. “
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala held a press conference and suggested that BJP leaders, instead of celebrating the dismissal of the petitions, should agree to a proper investigation by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Others also chipped in with their reaction. Former Ambassador and career diplomat K.C. Singh wondered if the court had considered the documents published by The Hindu regarding the deal.
“Q is did SCourt address two basic issues: 1. Gov’s sealed cover suppressing some facts 2. Hindu story giving documentary evidence of Defence Ministry officials objecting to interference in their price negotiations with France.”
One of the petitioners Prashant Bhushan, lawyer and activist, also reacted by pointing out, “ SC today dismissed review petitions in Rafale. However Justice Joseph has said that our complaint makes out a serious case&FIR should have been registered & investigation done by CBI. But because PC Act was changed to require govt permission, that must be taken. Why is CBI not seeking it?”
When the Government had replaced the then CBI director Alok Verma in a midnight operation last year, the opposition had alleged that he was about to initiate an investigation into the Rafale deal. Verma was unceremoniously eased out even after the Supreme Court reinstated him. Verma refused to join his new post as he had already retired during his tenure as CBI chief.
But unconfirmed reports suggest that he is yet to get his retirement benefits and his harassment continues.
The Supreme Court’s dismissal of the Rafale Review Petitions on Thursday may also trigger a re-look at the entire sequence of events in the CBI at that time.