Rafale: One Embarrassment, One Snub For Opposition

The Supreme Court has accepted the apology rendered by Rahul Gandhi for his “chowkidar chor hai” statement that he had attributed to the apex court with the implication that the court had accepted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Rafale deal was not clean. Rahul Gandhi had apologised in the Supreme Court for his statement. The court has asked Rahul Gandhi to be more careful in future for his remarks in court.

The Supreme Court has rejected the ‘contempt of court’ petition filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi in this regard. However, the BJP will hardly complain, given that they have Rahul Gandhi’s apology to wield to the people whenever he speaks on Rafale again. And this was not the only sore point for the opposition today.

The Supreme Court on Thursday also dismissed the reconsideration petitions filed in the Rafale case. The Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SK Kaul and Justice KM Joseph upheld the judgment pronounced on 14 December 2018. The apex court said that it did not feel the need to order an FIR or SIT inquiry into this matter.

In last year’s judgment, the apex court had declared Rafale deal as a contract of the government of India with that of France following a well-laid down procedure and given a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government.

The court had reserved the verdict on 10 May after agreeing to hear the review petition. The petition had been filed by Prashant Bhushan, former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, among others, seeking an inquiry into the Rafale deal.

On the matter of misrepresenting the Supreme Court statement on Rafale by Rahul Gandhi, the bench said that it accepted his apology. He needs to be more cautious, it held. The court had agreed to the re-hearing of the case considering the leaked but manipulated documents pertaining to the Rafale deal as evidence. To that, Rahul had said that even the court had accepted that “chowkidar chor hai“. “Chowkidar” happened to be a self-assigned epithet Prime Minister Modi had chosen to describe himself as the custodian of the wealth of India.

Due to the Supreme Court’s acceptance of Rahul Gandhi’s apology, his allegations about the Rafale deal in the future will lack credibility

The Centre opposed the idea of considering confidential documents as evidence, as its agreement with France risked being breached if everything about the deal had to be divulged in the court.

On 13 May, the central government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in connection with the leak of documents related to Rafale. The government argued that the documents on which the reconsideration petition had been filed were very sensitive to Indian security. The security of the country is in danger due to their going public, the attorney-general argued.

The Centre said petitioners Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Prashant Bhushan were guilty of leaking sensitive information, to which the petitioners said the documents were already in the public domain in the form of media reports.

The Hindu had published a report by its former editor N Ram that showed a bureaucrat objecting to the fact that the PMO was interfering in the deal. The report had hidden the lowest portion of the same sheet of paper where then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had scribbled that the PMO’s intervention was alright, as the French president was equally monitoring the French end of the bargain.

Ram pleaded that he had not received the document with Parrikar’s note at the bottom. However, that could not have been possible as the date when he said he had got hold of the papers was a date following, and not preceding, Parrikar’s observation. It was on the basis of this dubious media report that Bhushan and Shourie asked for a review of the Supreme Court judgment on Rafale.

The government expressed the apprehension that the documents that the petitioners had attached to the petition had been circulated, which was now accessible for the enemies of the country as well.

The Rafale fighter jet deal was signed between the governments of India and France in September 2016 after the negotiations with the UPA government yielded no result even as the IAF was desperately looking to replenish its dwindling squadrons of fighter planes. Under the contract that is on, the IAF will get 36 state-of-the-art fighter aircraft. According to media reports, the deal is worth € 7.8 crore (about Rs 58,000 crore).

The Congress claims that the price of a Rafale fighter jet was fixed at Rs 600 crore during the UPA government. One Rafale would cost around Rs 1,600 crore as per the agreement the Modi government has signed with France.

However, the deal that the UPA was headed to had no provision for purchasing its spare parts, hangars, training simulators, missiles or weapons. The maintenance was not assured either. Most importantly, the version of Rafale that the UPA government was negotiating the price of was a base model without the additions the IAF had asked for.

All these aspects have been addressed in the deal that the Modi government signed with France. Potent missiles like Meteor and Scalp are fitted in the Indian Rafale. The Meteor can hit up to a range of 100 km while the Scalp can hit up to a 300-km range.


The Congress further said this deal benefited Anil Ambani’s company. However, the UPA government too had struck several deals with Reliance Defence. More importantly, the allegation was patently false. Ambani’s company is only making cones for Falcon and has nothing to do with Rafale.

An Economic Times report

Rahul Gandhi had also accused the Modi government of depriving HAL of the contract whereas the PSU head clarified that the unit has never accepted offsets.

Chairman and managing director of HAL R Madhavan said the PSU would get into the picture only if the technology were to be transferred to India and, under the licence of the original manufacturer, the entire plane (and not just parts thereof) were to be made in India, which is not the case with the 36 made-in-France Rafale planes the IAF is getting as of now.


Rahul Gandhi tenders unconditional apology for ‘chowkidar chor hai’

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has apologised unconditionally to the Supreme Court and pleaded with it to end the contempt of court case against him. An affidavit has been filed in the court containing Gandhi’s apology. Gandhi, outside the court premises, had said that even the Supreme Court had accepted that ‘chowkidar chor hai’ (the watchman — an allusion to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — is dishonest) in connection with the Rafale case, which was a lie.

Now that the affidavit is in the possession of the court, the contempt case will be heard next on 10 May.

The fact is that the apex court had merely accepted a controversial media report as permissible evidence in the Rafale case. It is far away from reaching a conclusion whether all aspects of the Rafale deal are in place or there is something amiss.

Gandhi said in his apology that he had no intention of insulting the court. Nor did he intentionally do so. Nor did he want to interfere in the judicial process. This was a “mistake”, he admitted. So, he is apologising for that.

The Supreme Court had said on Monday that the petitions filed for reconsidering the decision of the apex court on the Rafale deal and the contempt of the court by the attribution of Gandhi’s ‘chowkidar chor hai’ jibe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the court would be heard simultaneously on 10 May.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph said that the petitions filed for reconsideration on 14 December 2018 would be listed for 10 May.

On 30 April, the court had given Gandhi the last chance to apologise for his remarks through a revised affidavit. The Congress president had acknowledged through his lawyer that he had wrongly attributed his opinion to the top court.

On this, the court had said that his apology was unacceptable because his affidavit at one place justifies his statement while, in another, he regrets his act.

On the review petition against the Rafale verdict in the brief hearing on Monday, advocate Prashant Bhushan told the bench that he would debate the application filed by the Union government. The government has contended that a small section of the Supreme Court verdict could have been a result of a misreading of its presentation, which was causing confusion about the bona fides of the deal.

On the other hand, Bhushan and former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha contend that the government employees concerned must be punished for misleading the court by misrepresenting and/or hiding some important information.

The Supreme Court had otherwise pronounced there was nothing wrong in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France. The apex court had said in its decision on 14 December that there is no reason to suspect anything wrong in the decision-making process for buying the aircraft. Along with this, the apex court had dismissed all petitions filed for investigation of irregularities in this deal.

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Chowkidar clean: Rahul Gandhi admits he misinterpreted SC

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has, in a way, apologised for misinterpreting the decision of the Supreme Court in the Rafale case as “chowkidar (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) chor hai“. In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, Gandhi said that he had said this in election zeal.

Gandhi submitted further, in response to the Supreme Court’s notice following the contempt-of-court case filed by lawyer and BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, that in the future, he would not misinterpret any court decision, observation or verdict in his interactions with the media unless such a thing is found in court records.

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Rahul Gandhi chowkidar chor nahin hai”]

When Gandhi said ‘chowkidar chor hai’

The Supreme Court had earlier accepted a plea by a group of petitioners to take as permissible evidence a controversial report in The Hindu by N Ram. Following this, Gandhi said that now the Supreme Court too had said that the “chowkidar” (Prime Minister Modi) was corrupt.

Reacting to this, BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi filed a contempt petition against this misinterpretation of the court decision by Gandhi.

While hearing Lekhi’s petition, a bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that the court had not made any such comment against Prime Minister Modi. The court said that Gandhi had misrepresented the decision of the Supreme Court. The court issued the notice to the Congress president and asked to him respond by 22 April.

Mukul Rohatgi appeared in the court on behalf of Lekhi.

During the hearing of this case, the court said it had made it clear that Rahul Gandhi took the name of this court and presented its decision in a wrong way before the media and the people about the Rafale deal. The apex court made it clear that, in the Rafale case, there was never a chance to make such comments while hearing the case of validity of the documents that were sought to be submitted as evidence against the government.

The decision of the court was limited to deciding whether the government’s plea that leaked or stolen documents could not be admitted as permissible evidence was valid.

On 10 April, a three-member Supreme Court bench chaired by CJI Ranjan Gogoi had decided, bypassing government objections, that the review petition would be heard in the light of the new piece of evidence, which was the N Ram report. After this, Rahul said to media persons that now the Supreme Court too had indicted the prime minister.

It may be recalled here that Ram had cropped out a part of the government document in his report showing that an officer had objected to the monitoring of the Rafale deal by the PMO. The part cropped out contained a note scribbled by the then Defence Minister (the late) Manohar Parrikar that clarified that the French president was monitoring the case too because this was a government-to-government contract and that such monitoring was perfectly all right.

Lekhi said in her petition that Gandhi had attributed his personal view to the Supreme Court and tried to create a wrong impression in the minds of the people.

The Congress had been countering Prime Minister Modi’s #MainBhiChowkidar Twitter campaign, which turned into a massive social media success, with #ChowkidarChorHai. It is to be seen whether the party stops this counter-campaign forthwith following Gandhi’s virtual admission that he had lied. Maybe not! Gandhi, after emerging from the court, repeated the jibe while talking to journalists.

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Twisting Supreme Court decision on Rafale ties Rahul up in knots

New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party MP and lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi has filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against Rahul Gandhi on Friday for what she alleges was the Congress president’s act of contempt for the court.

After the Supreme Court accepted a controversial report published in The Hindu as permissible evidence in the Rafale case, the Congress president had said that the highest court of the country had accepted that the chowkidar, the name Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assumed for the election campaign, was a chor (corrupt).

Lekhi has filed this petition in reference to Rahul Gandhi’s remarks against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Rafale fighter plane case.

The apex court will hear the case of contempt on Monday, 15 April.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was among the first to challenge Gandhi. She convened a press conference and attacked the Congress president. She said that the court’s decision was not a setback to the government because the court had only accepted the review petition.

In the Rafale case, the court has said that the review petition filed on the basis of ‘confidential’ documents obtained wrongly (or stolen) will be heard. The court had clarified that, before considering the facts of the Rafale deal, the court would decide on the initial objections raised by the Union government.

The government has claimed privilege on the documents related to the Rafale fighter aircraft deal. It told the Supreme Court that no one could present those papers without the permission of the concerned department under the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act.

The Attorney General had said that no one could publish documents related to national security as the security of the nation was paramount.

Activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan had told the court that the documents were already in the public domain. He argued that the provisions of the Right to Information (RTI) Act said that the people are supreme in the Indian sovereign and they could not be denied information for any kind of privilege.

The central government said that the petitioners who filed the review petition could not make some privileged documentation obtained illegally the basis of their case.

Attorney-General KK Venugopal, on behalf of the Centre, before the bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph, cited Section 123 of the Act and the provisions of Right to Information Act in support of its argument, but it did not wash.


Rafale: No jolt to govt, Rahul committed contempt of court, says BJP

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.


Sabarimala women entry: Supreme Court refuses to hear urgently contempt plea against temple shutdown

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday refused to accord an urgent hearing to a contempt petition moved by a lawyers’ group against Sabarimala temple authorities for closing the shrine after two women entered it. 

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul said that the contempt petition will be heard along with the pending review petitions against the apex court verdict, which allowed women of all age groups to enter the Sabarimala temple. 

Advocate PV Dinesh appearing for Indian Young Lawyers Association told the bench that the temple authorities closed the shrine Wednesday for purification purpose after two women had entered inside, which is in violation of apex court verdict.

On Wednesday, two women of menstruating age group had stepped into the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa, breaking centuries-old tradition-defying dire threats from the Hindu right.

Kanakadurga, 44, and Bindu, 42, stepped into the hallowed precincts guarded by police three months after the apex court’s historic judgement lifting the ban on entry of girls and women between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine of Lord Ayyappa, its “eternally celibate” deity.

This followed a show of strength by the CPI(M)-led LDF government that had organised a ‘wall’ in support of the entry of women of all age groups into the temple. The human chain witnessed active participation by several prominent communist politicians and many burqa-clad Muslim women. This made the supporters of social media question whether these women were Lord Ayyappa’s devotees who were dying to worship the celibate deity.

Earlier attempts backed by the communist administration to force women into Sabarimala had failed until Kanakadurga and Bindu surreptitiously entered the shrine before daybreak on Wednesday.
Following the entry of the women into the shrine, the chief priest had decided to close the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in order to perform the ‘purification’ ceremony.

Despite the Supreme Court’s historic ruling on 28 September last year, permitting women in the 10-50 age group, no children or young women in the ‘barred’ group were able to offer prayers at the shrine following frenzied protests by devotees and right-wing outfits.


Shanti Bhushan joins brigade of disruption, wants SC to adopt different roster practice

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today decided to examine a PIL filed by former law minister Shanti Bhushan challenging the existing roster practice of allocation of cases by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

A bench comprising Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan sought the assistance of Attorney General KK Venugopal and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in dealing with the PIL stating that the CJI cannot exercise arbitrary power in the allocation of cases.

However, the bench took objection when Bhushan’s counsel made an attempt to bring to its notice the unprecedented 12 January press conference held by four of the court’s most senior judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph — who had accused Chief Justice Dipak Misra of arbitrarily allocating cases.

“We are not going to go into it. We are not concerned with it for many reasons and obvious reasons. Don’t say all this,” the bench said.

The bench also referred to its recent verdicts, saying it has already held that the CJI is the ‘master of roster’.

It may be recalled that Shanti Bhushan faced the ire of the apex court some years ago when he had claimed eight of the last 16 judges of the Supreme Court until 2010 were corrupt.

Former law minister Shanti Bhushan on Thursday created a sensation in the Supreme Court when he moved an application accusing eight former Chief Justices of India of “corruption”, and dared the court to send him to jail for committing “contempt of court”.

The allegedly corrupt CJIs that Bhushan had said were corrupt were among some highly respected names: Justices Ranganath Mishra, KN Singh, MH Kania, LM Sharma, MN Venkatachalliah, AM Ahmadi, JS Verma, MM Punchhi, AS Anand, SP Bharucha, BN Kirpal, GB Patnaik, Rajendra Babu, RC Lahoti, VN Khare and YK Sabharwal.

Terming eight from the list above as “definitely corrupt”, Bhushan had put their names in a sealed cover and submitted it to the Supreme Court and virtually dared it to open it and read out the contents.

That was in September 2010. In November of that year, Bhushan refused to apologise. In the meantime, the highest court had accepted contempt charge against his son, Prashant Bhushan.

The father-son duo still faces charges for contempt of court in the Supreme Court for their statement about corruption in higher judiciary. During the senior Bhushan’s appearance as senior counsel for Transparency International in the Provident Fund scandal case of Ghaziabad, which allegedly involved several judges of the Indian judiciary, the bench had abandoned the hearing after deeming his remarks as contemptuous and termed his behaviour as that of a street urchin.


जस्टिस कर्णन को सुप्रीम कोर्ट से तगड़ा झटका

नई दिल्ली — सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने कोलकाता हाईकोर्ट के अवकाशप्राप्त जज जस्टिस चिन्नास्वामी स्वामीनाथन कर्णन की सज़ा के ख़िलाफ़ अर्ज़ी को मौखिक रूप से सुनवाई से इनकार कर दिया है। चीफ़ जस्टिस जेएस खेहर की बेंच के समक्ष जब जस्टिस कर्णन के वकील नेदुम्पारा ने गुहार लगाईं तो चीफ़ जस्टिस ने कहा कि वे कोई मौखिक सुनवाई नहीं करेंगे।

इससे पहले 21 जून को सुप्रीम कोर्ट की वेकेशन बेंच ने जमानत अर्जी पर सुनवाई करने से इनकार कर दिया था। जस्टिस कर्णन को सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने कोर्ट की अवमानना का दोषी मानते हुए 6 माह क़ैद की सज़ा दी थी जिसके बाद कोलकाता पुलिस ने उन्हें 20 जून को तमिलनाडु में गिरफ़्तार किया था। सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने कहा था कि जस्टिस कर्णन को सुप्रीम कोर्ट की सात जजों की बेंच ने सज़ा दी थी, इसलिए उसमें कोई भी फेरबदल दूसरी बेंच नहीं कर सकती है। इसलिए ग्रीष्मावकाश के बाद सुनवाई होगी। जस्टिस डीवाई चंद्रचूड़ और जस्टिस संजय किशन कौल की वेकेशन बेंच ने कहा कि किसी भी राहत के लिए वे चीफ़ जस्टिस से ग्रीष्मावकाश के बाद आग्रह करें।

सुप्रीम कोर्ट की 7 वरिष्ठतम जजों की बेंच ने जस्टिस कर्णन को कोर्ट की अवमानना का दोषी माना था और उन्हें 9 मई को तुरंत गिरफ़्तार कर 6 माह के जेल की सज़ा मुकर्रर की थी। उसके बाद से जस्टिस कर्णन पुलिस को चकमा दे रहे थे। जस्टिस कर्णन अपने पद से 12 जून को सेवा-निवृत्त भी हो चुके थे। उनके सेवा-निवृत्त होने के 12 दिनों बाद सुराग़ मिलने पर कोलकाता पुलिस ने उन्हें तमिलनाडु से गिरफ़्तार किया था।

जस्टिस कर्णन हाईकोर्ट के ऐसे पहले जज हैं जिन्हें पद पर रहते हुए जेल की सज़ा सुनाई गई है और ऐसे पहले जज हैं जो रिटायर होने के समय फ़रार थे। सज़ा सुनाए जाने के बाद जस्टिस कर्णन करीब एक महीने तक फ़रार रहे।