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SC says perplexed over separate listing of contempt case against Gandhi, Rafale review pleas

SC says perplexed over separate listing of contempt case against Gandhi, Rafale review pleas

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday said it was "little perplexed" over separate listing, contrary to its order, of the pleas seeking review of its verdict in Rafale case and the contempt plea against Congress President Rahul Gandhifor wrongly attributing to the apex court his "chokidar chor hai" remark against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

A special bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it had made it clear earlier that both the matters would be heard together but despite that, the contempt petition was not listed for hearing along with the review pleas on Monday. 

The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, was told that the contempt petition against Gandhi was listed for hearing on May 10. 

"We are little perplexed that the two cases are listed on two different dates when the order was that these matters will be heard together," the bench observed. 

"This is the problem. There was order for listing both the matters together. We had dictated the order in an open court but it says one case on May 6 and other on May 10. How can this be done?," it said. 

After a brief hearing, the bench ordered that the review pleas and contempt petition against Gandhi be listed together for hearing on May 10. 

"The present matters and contempt petition (criminal)... be listed together on May 10 at 2.00 PM," the bench said. 

"We make it clear that the hearing scheduled for May 10 would be taken up and parties shall make an endeavour to complete the same on the said date. Rejoinder to the replies of Union of India may be filed, in the meantime," the bench said in its order. 

At the outset, advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is one of the petitioners in the case along with former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, told the bench that there were three pleas before the court. 

Bhushan said besides the review plea, there were two other applications -- one seeking perjury action against unknown government servants for allegedly misleading the court during the Rafale case hearing earlier and the other for production of certain documents. 

Bhushan said he would argue on the review plea and application for production of certain documents and the court should allow Shourie to argue on the perjury application. 

"Where is the connected matter of contempt?," the bench asked. 

Senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for one of the petitioner lawyers, Vineet Dhandha, referred to the apex court's April 30 order and said the contempt petition was listed for hearing on May 10. 

"We had said that both the matters will be listed together," the bench said. 

When Bhushan said the court should hear his arguments on the review plea for an hour, the CJI said, "My brother (Justice Kaul) has to take up miscellaneous matters in his court". 

After the court dictated the order, Bhushan said that the Centre has not filed reply on the perjury application. 

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said no notice was issued to the government on the perjury application. 

To this, the bench told Venugopal, "Did we issue any notice to the application for production of documents? But, you have filed your reply to this application". 

Bhushan also told the court that he would file rejoinder to the Centre's affidavit which was filed last week. 

Gandhi had made the contemptuous remark, "chowkidar chor hai", against Modi, which the apex court had said was wrongly attributed to it. 

The top court had on April 30 given another opportunity to Gandhi for filing one more affidavit for his remark. 

Though Gandhi, through his counsel, admitted that he made a mistake by wrongly attributing the remark to the Supreme Court, it observed that in the affidavit filed earlier, at one point the Congress President admitted the mistake and at one point denied making contemptuous remarks. 

In its December 14, 2018 verdict, the apex court had said there was no occasion to doubt decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and dismissed all the petitions seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal. 

The top court had said there was no substantial evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity. 

Later, in a setback to the Centre, the apex court had on April 10 allowed the plea relying on leaked documents for seeking review of its Rafale verdict and dismissed the government's preliminary objections claiming "privilege" over them. 

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation. 

A deal to procure the jets was signed between India and France in 2015. The delivery is expected to begin in September this year. 


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