By Prarthana Mitra
Former BJP ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, the first to come forward with a detailed report of discrepancies in the Indian government’s defence deal with France, have moved the Supreme Court to seek an independent investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the matter.
In purchasing the Rafale jets at double the cost, high-ranking officials in Modi’s cabinet had committed gross “criminal misconduct,” their petition claimed. The 32-page complaint with 46 annexures listed evidence of multiple serious and cognisable offences listed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, committed by public servants occupying the highest position in the state. Additionally, it urged the court to oversee the probe and asked for the registration of a first information report (FIR) based on which CBI is to investigate the alleged corruption.
The move comes in light of recent developments and reshuffle
The signatories have also requested the court to dissuade the central government from interfering in the probe or transfer any officials involved in the procedure. This comes just a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed CBI chief Alok Verma in connection to a bribery case involving his second-in-command Rakesh Asthana. Verma was supposedly preparing to conduct a preliminary investigation into the Rafale controversy when he was put on leave, a move that sent shockwaves across political and bureaucratic circles.
Shouri, Sinha and Bhishan who had previously alleged that the Rafale deal ascribed majority offset contracts to Anil Ambani’s newly-minted Reliance Defence, had submitted a representation to this effect to Verma on October 4. In their petition to the apex court, they mentioned that it was not followed up with any action to so far.
“It is clear that there is enormous pressure on the CBI because of the nature of the persons involved not to undertake this investigation,” they said. “The complete inaction of the CBI on the complaint made is a gross dereliction of its statutory duty to register an FIR on receiving information that discloses the commission of a cognizable offence,” it said.
First step: Register FIR
The petition cited a top court judgement claiming that the police cannot legally refuse to register an FIR if the information given prima facie pertained to the commission of a cognisable offence and no preliminary inquiry was permissible.
“Till date not even an FIR has been registered in the matter and hence the petitioners are approaching the court for getting specially designated officers in the CBI to investigate this case and for this court to monitor the investigation. Hence, the present petition,” claimed the trio, who believe that the deal “compromises” the country’s “national security.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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