NEW DELHI— Former union ministers and senior BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie with senior advocate Prashant Bhushan on Wednesday filed a PIL in the Supreme Court (SC) seeking an FIR and a time-bound probe by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under its monitoring into the Rafale Deal matter.
The petitioners have alleged that there are prima facie evidences of corruption in the Rafale deal and CBI has not registered an FIR despite their written complaint they made on 4th October. They have sought a direction to the CBI to submit the periodic status reports to the apex court.
The petition was filed in SC hours after the Narendra Modi government removed the CBI director Alok Verma overnight, in the backdrop of bitter feud between him and CBI’s No. 2 & Special Director Rakesh Asthana since CBI team filed an FIR against Asthana who is accused of accepting a bribe of Rs 2 crore in meat exporter Moin Qureshi’s case in order to “wreck” the investigation. Tuesday midnight, the government sent both Verma and Asthana on leave and appointed CBI’s Joint Director, M Nageshwar Rao, as interim director of the agency.
The Opposition that has been calling Rafale deal a “big scam”, accused the government of removing Alok Verma in order to stop him from investigating the deal.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “CBI chief Alok Verma was collecting documents about the Rafale scam. He was forcibly sent on leave. The message from PM is very clear: Whoever comes close to Rafale, will be removed, crushed.”
CBI चीफ आलोक वर्मा राफेल घोटाले के कागजात इकट्ठा कर रहे थे। उन्हें जबरदस्ती छुट्टी पर भेज दिया गया।
प्रधानमंत्री का मैसेज एकदम साफ है जो भी राफेल के इर्द गिर्द आएगा- हटा दिया जाएगा, मिटा दिया जाएगा।
देश और संविधान खतरे में हैं।
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 24, 2018
Rahul also slammed the Modi government over the matter while addressing an assembly election rally in Jhalawar, Rajasthan.
Meanwhile, Alok Verma also moved the Supreme Court challenging the Central government order asking him to proceed on leave, and thus divesting him of the top post. Verma has hinted in his petition that action against him might have been taken because certain investigations did not take “the direction that may be desirable to the government.”
“The details of many of the cases which have led to the present circumstances are extremely sensitive and cannot with full responsibility be divulged in the present pleadings. The Petitioner (Alok Verma) shall however furnish the same to this Hon’ble Court,” says CBI Director Verma in his petition with the Supreme Court.
The Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France came under controversy as the French firm Dassault’s earlier Indian partner HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), a state-owned defence firm, was dumped at the last minute of the final deal to accommodate newly-born Reliance Defence of industrialist Anil Ambani.
During Congress-led UPA rule, the deal was to purchase 126 jets — among them 18 in a fly-away condition from Dassault Aviation and the remaining 108 would be manufactured in India at HAL. While during BJP-led NDA rule after the visit of PM Modi to France in 2015, the deal was reduced from 126 to 36 fighter jets in a ‘fly-away’ condition. Reportedly the price of each aircraft was also increased approximately Rs. 700 crores to over Rs 1600 crores.
On this issue, Adv. Bhushan and both disgruntled BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie have held several press conferences and made serious allegations on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him to overlook the set process for such a big deal.
On 10th October, SC had also asked the government to furnish the details of the decision making process for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a sealed cover to the court by October 29 — the next date of hearing.