Alleging "criminal misconduct" by top officials of the union government in the Rafale deal, former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan approached the Supreme Court today, requesting that an FIR be registered on the matter.
They have asked the court to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe their complaint on the Rafale aircraft deal between India and France in a time-bound manner and submit regular reports.
They had filed their complaint with the CBI on October 4 after Mr Shourie and Mr Bhushan met the agency's director Alok Verma. Their petition to the Supreme Court comes on a day when the government sent Mr Verma on forced leave in the wake of his tussle with his
second-in-command Rakesh Asthana. Mr Asthana, too, has been sent on leave. The centre was reportedly upset with Mr Verma for meeting Mr Shourie and Mr Bhushan.
Speaking to NDTV, Mr Bhushan, who has called the Rafale deal "the largest defence scam in India's history", said that they want a court-monitored probe conducted by CBI officers of "absolute integrity".
"We want a CBI investigation with handpicked officers of absolute integrity and competence. The court should monitor it, especially given the kind of government pressure and interference on the CBI. We had submitted a detailed complaint to the CBI with 46 annexures on October 4, which makes a strong case for not just investigation, but prosecution," he said.
There are already two petitions on the Rafale deal before the Supreme Court, filed by advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda respectively. In response to the petitions, the Supreme Court said that it would only examine whether correct procedures have been followed and not get into the question of pricing. It has asked the government to submit details of the decision-making process in a sealed cover by October 29. Now the Supreme Court will examine this matter on October 31.
Mr Bhushan, however, dismissed the two petitions as "bogus".
"Those two are bogus petitions. They were probably designed to secure a dismissal and whitewash the whole deal. Fortunately, the Supreme Court didn't fall for it and said that we independently want to understand what was the procedure followed," he told NDTV.
Mr Bhushan claimed that the petition filed by him and the two former BJP leaders deals with the alleged illegalities in the procedure that was followed.
"The Prime Minister, on his own, overturned a deal for 126 aircraft which was going through in accordance with the procedure and unilaterally took a decision to buy 36 aircraft in a ready-to-use condition, without any transfer of technology. And thereafter we find that the price has been increased to more than double, in order to give offset contracts worth Rs 20,000 crore to Anil Ambani," the lawyer alleged.
"That is not only a criminal misconduct under the Prevention of Corruption Act, it is a straightforward (case of) corruption because this Rs 20,000 crore being given to Anil Ambani under the offset contract is not any legal remuneration for work expected to be done. It is clearly in the nature of a commission," he further claimed.
The government has denied any wrongdoing in the Rafale deal.
Mr Bhushan said that their petition had nothing to do with the government's decision to send CBI director Alok Verma on forced leave.
"This decision was taken earlier...Because of Section 17a (of the Prevention of Corruption Act) which requires CBI to take the government's permission to investigate a matter, the agency was not able to proceed with the investigation," he said.
The petition has urged the Supreme Court to instruct the centre not to "intimidate or influence" officials who would probe the deal.
(With inputs from PTI)