NEW DELHI: Empowerment of defence forces with adequate technology and material support is a matter of vital importance, the Supreme Court said Friday while refusing to interfere with the government decision to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
The top court also noted that the procurement of the Rafale jet, which has been sought to be challenged, has its origins in the post-Kargil experience which saw a renewed attempt to advance the strategic needs of India's armed forces.
In relief to the Modi government, the Supreme Court dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision making process" warranting setting aside of the contract.
The deal is estimated to be Rs 58,000 crore, or about USD 8 billion.
In its judgement, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said judicial scrutiny of the Rafale deal has to be done keeping in view that "adequate military strength and capability to discourage and withstand external aggression and to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India, undoubtedly, is a matter of utmost concern for the Nation."
"The empowerment of defence forces with adequate technology and material support is, therefore, a matter of vital importance," said the bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.
The bench said it has "studied the material carefully" on the deal and also had the benefit of interacting with senior Air Force Officers on different aspect and there is no occasion to really doubt the process of procurement and pricing.
While noting that joint exercises have taken place and "there is a financial advantage to our nation", the bench also arrived at the findings that "the need for the aircrafts is not in doubt".
The bench, which was of the view that "the quality of the aircraft is not in question," further said: "Our country cannot afford to be unprepared/underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only 4th Generation but even 5th Generation Aircrafts, of which, we have none."
"It will not be correct for the Court to sit as an appellate authority to scrutinize each aspect of the process of acquisition," it added.