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India’s top court will review fresh evidence in the multi-billion dollar purchase of French warplanes, a potential setback to Prime Minister Narendra Modi a day before the start of national elections.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said the Supreme Court will further hear petitions alleging corruption in a deal to buy 36 Rafale jets by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. It had previously rejected a plea and said the individual petitioner’s doubts were not enough to prompt a probe into the $8.7 billion aircraft purchase.
While agreeing to consider the new evidence, the bench dismissed the government lawyer’s contention that the new documents provided by petitioners were stolen. It will now consider whether to probe the deal or not.
“We dismiss the preliminary objections raised by the Attorney General,” Gogoi said, adding that new documents will be “heard on merits.”
Modi, defense officials, Ambani and Reliance executives have consistently rejected allegations there was any impropriety.
The documents submitted by the petitioners were classified, defense ministry spokesman Col. Aman Anand said in a text message. The "petitioners are using documents with the intention to present a selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations on a matter relating to national security and defense," he said.
(Updates with comment from defense ministry in last paragraph..)
--With assistance from N. C. Bipindra.
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