Rafale deal: Supreme Court clean chit to Modi govt for second time

The Supreme Court Thursday gave clean chit to the Modi government on the purchase of 36 fully loaded Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation, rejecting the plea for registration of an FIR by the CBI for alleged commission of cognisable offence in the deal.

The apex court in two separate but concurring verdicts said the review petitions were without merit and required to be dismissed.

The top court rejected the pleas seeking review of the December 14, 2018 verdict in which it had said that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

It was not satisfied with the submission that it decided the disputed questions of facts in the Rs 58,000 crore deal “prematurely” without investigation.

The court said it had examined the three aspects (pricing, decision making process, offsets) on merits and did not consider it appropriate to issue any directions, as prayed for by the petitioners which automatically covered the direction for registration of FIR.

The rejection of the review petitions is tantamount to the apex court giving the clean chit to the Narendra Modi government for the second time.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul, who were part of the three-judge bench, said: “There was no ground made out for initiating prosecution under section 340 of CrPC.

“We are, thus, of the view that the review petitions are without any merit and are accordingly dismissed, once again, re-emphasising that our original decision was based within the contours of Article 32 of the Constitution of India.”

Justice K M Joseph in his separate but concurring findings held that the December 14, 2018 would not come in the way of the CBI from acting on the complaint, made by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist advocate Prashant Bhushan, seeking lodging of an FIR.

“It is my view that the judgment sought to be reviewed, would not stand in the way of the first respondent (CBI) in…from taking action on…complaint in accordance with law and subject to first respondent obtaining previous approval under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” Justice Joseph said.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice S K Kaul said that the court cannot lose sight of the fact that “we are dealing with a contract for aircrafts, which was pending before different Governments for quite some time and the necessity for those aircrafts has never been in dispute”.

Dealing with the registration of FIR aspect, they said: “No doubt that there was a prayer made for registration of FIR and further investigation but then once we had examined the three aspects (pricing, Decision Making Process, Offsets) on merits we did not consider it appropriate to issue any directions, as prayed for by the petitioners which automatically covered the direction for registration of FIR, prayed for.”

The two judges, in their 16-page separate verdict, dealt with the issue of pricing of Rafale fighter deal and said it is satisfied with the material made available.

“It is not the function of this Court to determine the prices nor for that matter can such aspects be dealt with on mere suspicion of persons who decide to approach the Court,” they said.

The CJI and Justice Kaul said that on perusal of documents on pricing issue, the court had found that “one cannot compare apples with oranges” and the internal mechanism of such pricing would take care of the situation.

“Thus, the pricing of the basic aircraft had to be compared which was competitively marginally lower. As to what should be loaded on the aircraft or not and what further pricing should be added has to be left to the best judgment of the competent authorities,” the two-judges said.

On the decision making process, they said, “We, however, found that there were undoubtedly opinions expressed in the course of the decision making process, which may be different from the decision taken, but then any decision making process envisages debates and expert opinion and the final call is with the competent authority, which so exercised it”.

Justice Kaul, who wrote the judgement for himself and the CJI, said: “It does appear that the endeavour of the petitioners is to construe themselves as an appellate authority to determine each aspect of the contract and call upon the Court to do the same. We do not believe this to be the jurisdiction to be exercised. All aspects were considered by the competent authority and the different views expressed considered and dealt with.

“It would well nigh become impossible for different opinions to be set out in the record if each opinion was to be construed as to be complied with before the contract was entered into. It would defeat the very purpose of debate in the decision making process.”

With regard to another controversial issue of Indian offset partner for Rafale fighter deal, the two-judges dealt with the averment that court had misconstrued that all the Reliance Industries were of one group since the two brothers held two different groups and the earlier arrangement was with the Company of the other brother.

“That may be so, but in our observation this aspect was referred to in a generic sense more so as the decision of whom to engage as the offset partner was a matter left to the suppliers and we do not think that much can be made out of it,” the two-judge said in their verdict.

Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court does not support claims on inability to access court there : Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday said it has received a report from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court and claims that people are unable to access the court there are not supported.

Senior advocate Huzefa Ahmadi, representing child right activists Inakshi Ganguly and Shanta Sinha who have alleged detention of children in Kashmir, had on September 16 told the apex court that people in the Valley are not able to approach the high court there. The bench had then sought a report from the chief justice of Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have received the report from the chief justice (of Jammu and Kashmir High Court) which does not support your statement,” the bench also comprising justices S a Bobde and S A Nazeer told the counsel appearing for the petitioners.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it would entertain the petition regarding alleged detention of children in Kashmir as the plea has raised “substantial issues” regarding minors.

During the hearing on Friday, the apex court directed the Juvenile Justice Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to file a report before it within a week on the issue of alleged detention of children in Kashmir.

Supreme Court notice to Centre and J&K on plea for producing Farooq Abdullah

 The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir administration on a plea seeking to produce before court former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who is allegedly under detention following the scrapping of the state’s special status.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S A Bobde and S A Nazeer issued notice to the Centre and the state, and fixed Rajya Sabha MP and MDMK leader Vaiko’s plea for hearing on September 30.

Vaiko, who said he is a close friend of Abdullah for the past four decades, has contended that constitutional rights conferred on the National Conference leader had been deprived of on account of “illegal detention without any authority of law”.

Ayodhya: Supreme Court notices to 2 for threatening senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought responses from two persons for allegedly threatening senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan for taking up the case on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board and other Muslim parties in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute matter.

“Notice,” said the five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi at the start of hearing on the 18th day in the land dispute case.

The bench has put up contempt pleas for hearing after two weeks.

Dhavan had filed contempt petition against two persons, N Shanmugam, a retired education officer, and a Rajasthan resident, Sanjay Kalal Bajrangi, for allegedly threatening him for appearing for Muslim parties.

Dhavan, who appeared for lead petitioner M Siddiq and the All India Sunni Waqf Board, had said that he received a letter on August 14, 2019 from Shanmugam, threatening him for appearing for Muslim parties.

Dhavan had said in the plea that he has also received a WhatsApp message from Bajrangi, which was also an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice before the apex court.

He had alleged that he has been accosted both at home and in the court premises.

The plea said that by sending the letter the alleged contemnor has committed criminal contempt because “he is intimidating a senior advocate who is appearing for a party/parties before the apex court and discharging his duties as a senior advocate and he ought not to have sent such a letter.”

“Exercise suo motu powers under Article 129 of the Constitution of India and Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act taking cognisance of the criminal contempt on the basis of facts placed on record against contemnor/opposite party for committing criminal contempt,” the plea said.

Supreme Court refuses to direct UP police to further probe Hapur lynching case

The Supreme Court Tuesday refused to direct the Uttar Pradesh Police to conduct further probe in the 2018 Hapur lynching case.

A vacation bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Aniruddha Bose said the trial court would decide the plea for seeking further direction to the state police to file supplementary charge sheet after conducting further probe in the murder case of 45-year-old meat exporter Qasim Qureishi.

The bench was hearing a fresh interim application filed by Samiuddin, a relative of the deceased, in which it was submitted that further probe was needed in view of revelations made by two brothers of the meat exporter in their statements recorded under section 164 of the CrPC before the chief judicial magistrate of Hapur.

Declining the plea, the bench asked Samiuddin to approach the trial court which will take a decision in accordance with the law.

The Uttar Pradesh government had earlier informed the apex court that it had filed a fresh status report on investigation in the Hapur lynching case.

The court had on April 8 asked the state government to file a status report of the investigation in the case in which a person was killed and another brutally assaulted in the name of cow vigilantism in June last year.

The apex court on September 5 last year directed the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Meerut range to supervise the investigation in the Hapur lynching case.

Earlier, Samiuddin had sought setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to ensure “an impartial, competent and fair investigation” into “the barbaric incident of mob lynching on June 18 last year in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh.

The plea had alleged that Samiuddin and Qasim, both belonging to the minority community, were targeted and mercilessly assaulted by a mob of the majority community from the neighbouring village, in the name of cow vigilantism.

It had further sought a direction to the state government to compensate the victim for his medical treatment. It had said Qasim had died as a consequence of the lethal mob lynching, while Samiuddin survived the attempt on his life but suffered multiple fractures, wounds and injuries.

Supreme Court to hear Ayodhya land dispute case Friday

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Friday the issues relating to the Ayodhya’s Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case.

A notice in this regard was put up on the apex court website which said that the matter will be heard by a five-judge Constitution bench comprising Chief justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer.

The matter will come for the first time on Friday since March 8 order by which the top court had referred the decades-old politically sensitive case for mediation by a panel headed by former apex court judge F M I Kalifulla for exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement.

Spiritual guru and founder of Art of Living foundation Sri Sri Ravishankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu, a renowned mediator, are the other two members of the panel of mediators.

The panel was asked by the apex court to hold an in-camera proceedings and complete it within eight weeks.

Cancellation of nomination: Supreme Court dismisses plea of sacked BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav

The Supreme Court Thursday rejected the plea of sacked BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav, challenging the Election Commission’s decision to reject his nomination papers from Varanasi Lok Sabha seat.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “we do not find any grounds to entertain the plea of Yadav”.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Yadav, said, as per earlier verdict of the apex court, the election petition can be filed during enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Election Commission, also referred to various apex court judgments and said election petitions can only be filed after polls are over as it would vitiate the electoral process.

At the fag end of the hearing, Bhushan sought liberty from the court to file an election petition after polling is over.

“We have done what we could have done. We find no grounds to entertain this petition,” the court said.

Yadav, who was dismissed in 2017 after he posted a video online complaining about the food served to troops, was fielded by the Samajwadi Party as its candidate from the Varanasi seat. Prime Minister Narenda Modi is contesting from the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat.

Yadav, in his plea, had termed the decision of the poll panel discriminatory and unreasonable and had said it should be set aside.

Rajiv Gandhi assassination case: SC dismisses pleas opposing TN’s move to release convicts

The Supreme Court Thursday dismissed pleas of families of those killed along with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, objecting to the Tamil Nadu government’s 2014 decision to release seven convicts in the case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “All aspects were covered in the earlier constitution bench verdict in the case and therefore nothing survives in the case”.

In 2014, the then J Jayalalithaa-led government had decided to release seven convicts in the case.

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide bomber in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu on May 21, 1991.

Plea in Supreme Court seeks direction to debar Rahul Gandhi from contesting LS polls

A petition was filed in the Supreme Court Thursday seeking direction to the Centre and the Election Commission to debar Congress President Rahul Gandhi from contesting the Lok Sabha election till the issue of his citizenship is decided.

The Home Ministry recently served a notice to Gandhi asking him to clarify within a fortnight his “factual position” on a complaint questioning his citizenship status.

The plea filed in the apex court has said that the petitioners were “dissatisfied” with the “inaction” of the Centre and the poll panel in “deciding the question of voluntary acquisition of British citizenship” by Gandhi in spite of a November 2015 communication by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in this regard.

The petitioners — Jai Bhagwan Goyal and C P Tyagi — have alleged that since prima facie evidence in this regard has been produced before the Home Ministry and the EC, Gandhi should not have been allowed to contest the ongoing Lok Sabha elections from parliamentary constituencies he has decided to — Amethi in Utter Pradesh and Wayanad in Kerala.

The plea, filed by advocate Barun Kumar Sinha, also sought a direction to the EC to remove Gandhi’s name from “electoral roll till the decision of the question of acquisition of his British citizenship”.

The plea was mentioned for urgent listing before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

The lawyer appearing for the petitioners told the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, that the matter be heard next week.

“We will see,” the bench said.

In a recent letter to Gandhi, the Home Ministry had said it has received a representation from Swamy in which it has been brought out that a company named Backops Limited was registered in the United Kingdom in 2003 with Rahul Gandhi as one of its directors.

The Home Ministry had said Swamy’s letter mentioned that in the British company’s annual returns filed on October 10, 2005 and October 31, 2006, Rahul’s date of birth has been given as June 19, 1970 and had declared his nationality as British.

SC stays inquiry commission proceedings into Jayalalithaa’s death at Apollo Hospitals

The Supreme Court Friday stayed the proceedings of an inquiry commission set up to probe the death of then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai in 2016.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was hearing the appeal of Apollo Hospitals against the April 4 order of the Madras High Court rejecting its objection against the ongoing inquiry into the death of the AIADMK leader at the hospital.

“Notice. Stay of further proceedings of the inquiry commission,” the bench, which also comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, said.

The AIADMK-led state government had set up the inquiry commission to look into circumstances leading to the death of Jayalalithaa on December 5, 2016 at Apollo Hospitals.

The Madras High Court had on April 4 rejected Apollo Hospital’s objections to an inquiry commission set up to probe the death of Jayalalithaa looking into aspects of treatment given to her.

As mandated by its terms of reference, the Justice A Arumughaswamy Commission of Inquiry was empowered and entitled to go into the appropriateness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment given to Jayalalithaa during her 75-day hospitalisation in 2016, it said.

The high court had refused to stall proceedings of the commission and disposed of the petition filed by the hospital seeking to quash the government orders which laid down terms and reference of the probe panel.

It had also rejected the prayer of the hospital for setting up a medical board to assist the panel during the inquiry.

The high court had said if a harmonious interpretation was made to terms of reference, the government was careful enough to include the word “subsequent treatment provided till her unfortunate demise on December 5, 2016”.

This meant the nature and extent of treatment given by Apollo Hospitals, which includes appropriateness, adequacy or inadequacy of the treatment, the court had said.

“We are of the view that if the commission is restrained from going into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by the petitioner hospital, it would only defeat the very object with which the government had appointed the commission of inquiry,” it had said.

Therefore, the panel can go into the correctness, efficacy, adequacy or inadequacy of the medical treatment provided by Apollo Hospitals by screening the records produced before it and arrive at a conclusion, the bench had said.

It had disagreed with the hospital’s contention that a retired judge of the high court (Arumughaswamy) cannot be the competent person to deal with the complex and intricate medical treatment and hence experts and professionals should be included in the panel.

It had said that even in the absence of inclusion of experts or professionals, as per Section 5B of Commission of Inquiry Act, the commission can independently take the aid of any person who, in its opinion, shall be of assistance for conducting the inquiry.

Referring to the hospital’s charge that its doctors were repeatedly questioned and harassed, the high court had said it was not inclined to accept the submissions that witnesses (doctors) were wantonly, willfully and deliberately harassed by the commission.

The government had set up the inquiry commission to look into circumstances leading to the death of the AIADMK supremo, citing doubts expressed by various people.