Government asks SC to correct error, says court misinterpreted wording

The government on Saturday filed an application for a correction to be carried out in the Supreme Court order on the Rafale jet fighter deal.

The court’s ruling on Friday effectively vindicated the government’s stance that due process had been followed in reaching the Rs 59,000 crore deal, and said there was no reason to order a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, as demanded by the petitioners.

The order, however, contained some errors, the most significant one being its mention that the pricing details had been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor general of India, or CAG, that the government auditor had submitted a report to the Public Accounts Committee, and that redacted portions of the report were available in the public domain.

This error was picked up by some of the petitioners as well as opposition parties that claimed the government had, in its original submission to the court, misled it. Congress president Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference on Friday: “How does the Supreme Court judgment have this line that Rafale pricing has been examined by the PAC. Now, we have to ask the government, where is this CAG report?”

On Saturday, the defence ministry filed an application for a correction of that very paragraph.

The original paragraph in the order (paragraph 25) said: “The pricing details have, however, been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General (hereinafter referred to as CAG), and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee… Only a redacted portion …was placed before the Parliament and is in public domain.”

The defence ministry said in its petition that the court seems to have misunderstood its original submission, which was, it added, “in the form of bullet points”. According to the ministry, the “second bullet point” read: “The Government has already shared the pricing details with the CAG. The report of the CAG is examined by the PAC. Only a redacted version of the report is placed before the Parliament and in public domain”.

The petition argues that the use of the word “is” was “a description of the procedure usually followed” and asked the court to replace “has been” in paragraph 25, which seems to suggest that the act has already taken place, with “is”.

Ideally, of course, the governments original submission should have used “will be” instead of is to make things clear.

It isn’t clear when the court will correct the order. If the three judges of the bench who issued the order are in town, this could happen immediately, a government functionary said on Saturday.

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