SC dismisses all pleas seeking court probe into Rafale deal, says no need for detailed scrutiny
The apex court today in its hearing said that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process involved in making the deal, adding that the quality of the aircraft was not in question.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Friday gave a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, ruling out all the pleas seeking a court-monitored probe, as it 'was satisfied' that the process for procurement had been complied with.
Pronouncing a unanimous judgement, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said, “Our Country can’t afford to be unprepared in matters of fighter aircraft. We cannot go into the wisdom of why the deal for 36 Rafale jets were made and not the original 126 aircraft. We cannot ask the government to go for 126.”
The apex court said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar Rafale deal, adding that the quality of the aircraft was not in question.
On the question of Dassault’s choice of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as an offset partner under the deal, one of the main sticking points for critics, the court said, “It is up to the vendor (Dassault) and not the central government to decide. It is also not its job to go into pricing when the need and quality of aircraft is not in doubt."
The bench further added that perception of individuals cannot form the basis for interference.
Refusing to interfere in the process, the bench observed, “Judiciary has constrained jurisdiction in examining defence deals of this nature especially when adversaries have inducted 4th and 5th generation fighters compared to none by India.”
The top court said it is not the job of the court to deal with the comparative details of the pricing. The bench said it does not find substantial matter to interfere with the issue of procurement, pricing and offset partner.
The court further explained that the extent of permissible of judicial review with respect to contracts relating to defence procurements have to be decided on fact to fact basis.
The order came on a batch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the Narendra Modi government’s controversial purchase of Rafale fighter jets from French firm Dassault Aviation.
The deal had come under political scrutiny in India and in France after the Opposition questioned how Reliance Defence was signed on as the offset partner by weapons manufacturer Dassault Aviation when the Anil Ambani-owned company had no relevant experience.
SC says perception of individuals can't be basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement @NewIndianXpress— kanusarda (@sardakanu_TNIE) December 14, 2018
The Centre has defended the deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets and opposed public disclosure of the pricing details. The petitions seeking a court-monitored investigation into the Rafale deal were first filed by advocates Manohar Lal Sharma and Vineet Dhanda.
Later, Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Sanjay Singh filed another petition. Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan also filed a joint petition. The petitioners alleged that the Defence Procurement Procedure was not followed and the relevant clearances for the deal were not obtained.
India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly-away condition as part of the process of upgrading the Indian Air Force’s equipment. The deal is estimated to be worth about Rs 58,000 crore. The Rafale is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.
(With inputs from online desk and PTI)