New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to provide details of the steps involved in the decision making process leading to the Rafale deal between India and France.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi made it clear that these steps would not cover the issue of pricing of the defence equipment in question. The court also refused to issue a notice to the Centre regarding the same.
Supreme Court seeks details of decision-making process of Rafale deal
“We have not taken into account the averments made in the writ petition and this is only to satisfy ourselves,” Gogoi said.
Attorney General, K.K. Venugopal told the court that it was a matter concerning the national security of the country and was politically inclined. “If the court issues notice, that means it goes to the Prime Minister. This is not a petition in public interest, on the other hand — it’s polticial. Please do not entertain this which is to achieve political gains”, he said.
He added that courts should not interfere in the issue since it was not a judicially reviewable issue.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a stay on the Rafale fighter jet deal worth around Rs 59,000 crore signed between India and France on 23 September, 2016.
On 10 April, during his visit to France, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India‘s decision to purchase 36 Rafale jets in a government-to-government agreement. Under the deal, the delivery of the aircraft is slated to begin from September 2019. The deal was finalised on the basis of the procurement procedure followed under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
In the petition, advocate M.L. Sharma alleged discrepancies in the fighter jet deal and sought a stay. Sharma sought quashing of the inter-government agreement on grounds it was not ratified by Parliament under Article 253 (power of Parliament to make any law for implementing any inter-government agreement) of the Constitution.
Another plea,by Congress leader Tehseen S Poonawalla, raised the question why the Prime Minister finalised the deal without the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security before signing the procurement agreement with France. The petition was withdrawn later.
On 21 September, the controversy over India’s purchase of Rafale fighter jets took a new turn with a French journal quoting former president François Hollande as saying that Dassault Aviation was given no choice but to partner Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group for the offset clause in the deal.
Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has a 51:49 joint venture with Dassault — the maker of Rafale — called Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), which has an offset contract of about ₹30,000 crore for 36 Rafale aircraft.
Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30% of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.