Three blows and Rafale deal

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On Wednesday, a day ahead of the beginning of seven-phase 2019 elections, the ruling BJP was dealt with three blows which made these polls interesting. The first blow came from the Supreme Court when it allowed leaked documents to be relied upon by petitioners seeking review of its Rafale judgement. The next blow came on the back of a comment by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said that he sees better chances of peace talks if Modi is re-elected. And the third and final blow came from the Election Commission when it refused to allow the release of the PM Narendra Modi biopic starring Vivek Oberoi. The Commission has also extended the ban to include NaMo TV as well as a 10-part web series about PM Modi. In its judgement on the Rafale deal, the apex court dismissed the government’s preliminary objections claiming “privilege” over them. The judgment makes it clear that during the hearing of the review petition the bench will look into not only the question of pricing of the jet but also selection of Indian offset partner of Dassault which manufactures Rafale. The apex court will soon fix a date for the hearing of the review petition filed by the trio Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie. The significance of the verdict is that the Court ruled out the centre’s objection on the issue of national security also and it was made clear that the documents available in the media, will be judged on the basis of merits.

It is a landmark development in the ongoing political battle in the country between the Prime Minister Modi and the opposition led by the Congress president Rahul Gandhi over the corruption issue. Those documents will now be judged on merit as part of the review of the December 14, 2018, verdict of the apex court, which had ruled out a court-monitored probe into the allegations of procedural violations and favouritism in a deal to procure 36 Rafale jets, effectively giving the government a clean chit. Former Union minister Arun Shourie, one of the review petitioners in the case, later said he was delighted by the Supreme Court verdict dismissing the Centre’s “peculiar argument” on privileged documents.

The Wednesday ruling is unequivocally a welcome one. There is no denying that the bench has exposed the deceit of the Modi government and its lawyers. This will open a Pandora’s Box and this has all the potentiality of a Watergate type situation if the Supreme Court acts   taking into account the role of the Prime Minister’s Office in influencing the Rafale deal announced by the Prime Minister unilaterally on April 10, 2015 in Paris. Moreover, the apex court’s latest decision will certainly help provide clarity on several aspects of the murky deal.

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