Published On: Thu, Nov 15th, 2018

SC reserves order on petitions seeking probe in purchase of Rafale jets

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its order on a batch of petitions seeking a probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

The attorney general said there was “letter of comfort” from the French President

A bench comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, reserved the order as Attorney General KK Venugopal defended the Narendra Modi government’s decision citing national security concerns.

When asked by the CJI about the argument of the petitioner that France had not given a sovereign guarantee to the deal, the attorney general said there was “letter of comfort” from the French President.

The petitioners in the case include advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, lawyer Vineet Dhanda, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

The Centre Monday had handed over, in a sealed cover, one set of documents to the Supreme Court containing details of the pricing of the fighter aircraft. A second set was given to the petitioners in the case on the decision-making process leading to the award of the contract.

On the price of the Rafale aircraft, Prashant Bhushan, who appeared on behalf of himself and Sinha and Shourie, said the government was hiding behind the secrecy clause of the agreement.

In response to Bhushan, Attorney General KK Venugopal said “secrecy agreement has to be secret”. He added that if the price is made public, adversaries would be able to relate it to the equipment.

The AG further asked if the court was competent to judicially review the Rafale deal, adding that the “matter is for experts to decide on, not the court”. The bench then asked for the assistance of an Air Force officer on the issue and Sir Vice-Marshal J Chalapati appeared in court to answer the questions.

Regarding the contentious offset details of the Rafale deal, Venugopal said that Dassault had not yet submitted details of offset partner to government.

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