SC seeks price details of Rafale deal; rules out CBI probe
31 October 2018
The Supreme Court today asked the central government to share with it the price details of Rafale fighter jets, being acquired from French aircraft maker Dassault, in a sealed envelope.
The Supreme Court, while hearing two petitions filed by lawyers ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda had directed the government to provide in a sealed cover, the steps taken in arriving at the decision to seal the deal in its present form.
The apex court, while hearing a petition filed by former union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha along with lawyer Prashant Bhushan, said that even if the centre could not share the details, file an affidavit to the same.
The court, however, ruled out a CBI probe into the matter and Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi observed that the CBI should first put its house in order.
The petitions by Sinha and Shouri were filed after the Supreme Court's directives on the earlier petition. As of now, four PILs are pending before the Supreme Court on the deal. Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan have sought registration of FIR into the Rafale jet deal alleging çriminal misconduct' by public functionaries. The trio has also sought a CBI investigation into the case.
It may be noted that the tender for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal, under which rafale was chosen, was floated in 2007. The original tender for the purchase of 126 fighter jets, involved procurement of 18 fighter jets in flyaway condition and remaining 108 in India with the transfer of technology. Dassault, the manufacturer of Rafale, was declared the lowest bidder and the price negotiations were at a very advanced stage by March 25, 2015.
"However within 15 days of this, the prime minister of India and the President of France announced a totally new deal jettisoning the virtually complete 126 aircraft deal and the prime minister on behalf of India agreed to purchase only 36 Rafale aircraft in a 'fly-away' condition without any transfer of technology and make in India. It later turned out that the new deal involved 50 per cent of the value of the contract to be given as 'offset contracts' to Indian companies and that the government informally told Dassault and the French government that the bulk of the offset contracts would have to be given to a company of Anil Ambani which had just been set up," it claimed.
The pleas cite that the government extended an undue benefit to Reliance Aerospace Limited (RAL) and also resulted in price escalations. Bhushan's plea also demands a SIT probe into the matter.