Patna: Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has slammed the opposition for terming the Supreme Court’s observation of Wednesday in the Rafale case as a jolt to the Narendra Modi government, claiming that the verdict on the merit of the case was yet to be delivered.
The apex court has allowed documents published by The Hindu as part of a disputed story by N Ram to be relied upon by petitioners seeking review of its Rafale judgment and dismissed the government’s preliminary objections claiming “privilege” over them.
The opposition parties’ stand that the Supreme Court’s decision is a jolt to the government is “prayojit (sponsored)”, Prasad told reporters at Bakhtiyarpur, about 50 km from the Bihar capital.
[pullquote]Citing the order, Gandhi claimed the court has accepted that ‘chowkidar chor hai‘[/pullquote]
Merits of Rafale case
“The court has merely said that it would examine even those documents which the government holds are privileged or have been appended to the petition in an unauthorised manner,” he said.
Prasad said, “The Supreme Court is yet to come out with a verdict on the merit of the case on the review petitions.”
“The government is on a strong footing as the apex court has already said that no commercial interests were involved in the deal which was necessary for national security”, he said.
The Centre had submitted that privileged documents were procured by petitioners in an illegal way and used to support their review petitions against the 14 December 2018, judgment of the apex court dismissing all pleas challenging procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
“The Rafale deal was necessary to strengthen the Indian Air Force. The IAF had a dearth of state-of-the art aircraft. A sponsored campaign is being carried out against the government on the issue,” he alleged.
“We respect the Supreme Court’s order,” the union law minister who is the BJP candidate for the Patna Sahib seat, added.
He said as far as the opposition parties and their “sponsored campaign” is concerned, they will be given a befitting reply by the people of this country.
‘Rahul Gandhi committed gross contempt of court’
The BJP also accused Congress president Rahul Gandhi of “gross contempt of court”, saying he attributed to the Supreme Court what it never said in its order on the Rafale deal.
BJP leader and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman asserted that the court’s order, which allowed leaked documents to be relied upon by petitioners seeking review of its Rafale judgment while rejecting the government’s objections, was not a setback and that the Congress will not be able to “shows its face”.
The matter will become crystal clear in the court, she told reporters.
[pullquote]The Supreme Court is yet to come out with a verdict on the merit of the case on the review petitions: RS Prasad[/pullquote]
Citing the order, Gandhi claimed the court has accepted that “chowkidar chor hai“, a reference to his allegation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is corrupt, and that he gave money to industrialist Anil Ambani.
Lashing out at the Congress chief, Sitharaman said he had crossed the line of decency in his comments on the court’s order and added that it underlines his frustration that he was attributing words to the SC that it never uttered.
The order was limited to whether the documents, which the government had argued should not be considered by the court as they were obtained illegally, should be accepted by the apex court or not, she said.
Gandhi does not read even half a paragraph of the court’s order and goes by what his advisers tell him, Sitharaman claimed, accusing him of gross contempt of court.
Noting that Gandhi was accompanied by his mother Sonia Gandhi, sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra who is being probed for controversial land deals among others when he filed his nomination from Amethi seat, the BJP leader in a swipe at him said Christian Michel had referred to them as “the family”.
Michel is under arrest for his involvement in the alleged corruption in the VVIP chopper deal.
The BJP has used some of his alleged disclosures to accuse the Gandhi family of involvement in the case, a charge rejected by the Congress, which has in turn charged the government with misuse of probe agencies for political purposes.
Attacking Rahul Gandhi, Sitharaman said he is himself out on a bail a reference to the National Herald case and has been telling lies to throw muck at Modi who, she added, does not face any charge.
Asked about his challenge to Modi for a debate, she said the Congress leader should first answer whether the court’s order has said what he alleged in his reaction.
She declined to comment on Pakistan’s premier Imran Khan’s comments that there may be a better chance of peace talks with India and settle the Kashmir issue if BJP wins the general election.