SC reserves order on pleas for probe into Rafale deal
14 November 2018
The Supreme Court, which is hearing a bunch of petitions seeking court-monitored probe into alleged irregularities in the Narendra Modi government’s decision to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, today reserved its order on the petitions.
The apex court however ruled out a debate on pricing of Rafale deal in the court till it comes to the conclusion that the pricing information is to be brought in the public domain.
The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, heard the case for more than three hours and also interacted with Air Vice-Marshal T Chalapathy, who had been associated with Rafale aircraft procurement decision.
The Air Vice Marshal told the SC bench that he would rate Jaguars, Sukhoi 30s and India-made light combat aircraft as 3rd and 4th generation fighters but that India needed 4+ generation fighters and hence the IAF zeroed in on Rafale.
The Air Vice Marshal also told the court that though India-made Sukhoi 30s and LCA are being inducted regularly, the last acquisition was in 1980s, of Jaguars.
To which the top court said, "it means there has been no induction of aircrafts since 1985".
The SC had sought government consent to interact with an IAF official as the matter is related to the Indian Air Force.
The bench also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph concluded the arguments advanced by various parties which have also sought registration of FIR in connection with the alleged irregularities in the deal.
Earlier, during the hearing, the centre admitted that there is no sovereign guarantee by France for Rafale deal if the contract goes awry but said it has a letter of comfort from French PM, which would be as good as a governmental guarantee.
The centre also told the SC that the government has so far not been informed about the offset partner of Dassault company on Rafale deal.
Earlier, during the hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing on behalf of himself and former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, submitted that the NDA government "short circuited" the acquisition process by taking the Inter Government Agreement (IGA) route to avoid giving tender.
He argued that initially the union law ministry had flagged the issue, but later gave in to the proposal of entering into the IGA. He further submitted that nobody knows about the alleged change in the deal done by the prime minister and even the defence minister was not aware about the change.
Bhushan quoted former French president François Hollande and other Dassault officials to impute criminal motive in granting the offset contract to Reliance.
Earlier, Advocates ML Sharma, Vineet Dhanda and AAP MP Sanjay Singh, also advanced their arguments. Sharma, who opened the argument, told the court that the IGA was "illegal" and sought an investigation into the matter.
Sharma told the Supreme Court that the report filed by the government in the court reveals that there has been serious fraud while making the decision. The petitioner urged the Supreme Court that the matter be heard by a five-judge bench.