The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear in open court the petitions seeking review of its December verdict that dismissed pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, in its chamber hearing, allowed the prayer of former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and also activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan that the review pleas be heard in open court.
"The prayer for open Court hearing is allowed", said the bench which also considered the review petition filed by AAP MP Sanjay Singh through lawyer Dheeraj Singh.
Besides two review petitions, the top court is also seized of some applications including the one filed by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan seeking perjury prosecution of government officials for allegedly misleading the court on the issue of pricing and procurement process.
A day after the December verdict, the Centre had moved the apex court seeking correction in the judgement where a reference was made about the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report and Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC), saying "misinterpretation" of its note has "resulted in a controversy in the public domain".
On December 14, 2018, the apex court had dismissed various pleas challenging the deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets by India from France, saying that there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract.
It had rejected the pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and the court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the ₹58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement (IGA).
Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan, have claimed in their review plea that the top court had relied upon "patently incorrect" claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover in the court.
They have claimed that the judgement was based on "errors apparent on the face of the record" and non-consideration of subsequent information which has come to light would cause a grave miscarriage of justice.
In its last year verdict, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had dealt with "three broad areas of concern" raised in the petitions -- the decision making process, pricing and the choice of Indian offset partners (IOP) -- and said there was no reason for intervention by the court on the "sensitive issue" of purchase of 36 jets.
It had said the Indian Air Force (IAF) needs advanced fighter jets as the country cannot afford to be "unprepared" or "under prepared" in a situation where adversaries have acquired fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft, "of which, we have none".