Rafale deal: SC asks Centre to file affidavit on pricing details

Rafale deal: SC asks Centre to file affidavit on pricing details
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New Delhi, Oct 31: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre for pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France in a sealed cover within 10 days but agreed that “strategic and confidential” information need not be disclosed.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph also asked the Centre to share information which can be brought in the public domain with the petitioners.
The bench said the information must be shared by the government within 10 days and the petitioners could respond to it in the next seven days. It posted the matter for the next hearing on November 14.
However, when attorney general K K Venugopal said that most details about Rafale jets, including its pricing, would be covered under the Official secrets Act and it would not be possible for the government to share it with anyone, the SC bench said: “if the government feels the pricing of Rafale jet can’t be shared even in sealed cover with the court, then let it file an affidavit to that effect.”
The SC bench was hearing four petitions, including one by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who are seeking a court-monitored CBI investigation in the procurement of the fighter jets.
When petitioner Prashant Bhushan said there should be a court-monitored CBI probe into the deals, the SC said “that can wait”.
When Bhushan pressed further for a court-monitored CBI probe, CJI Gogoi said “let CBI put its house in order first.”
In its order, the bench observed that none of the petitioners have questioned the suitability of the Rafale jets, their equipment and their utility to the Indian Air Force.
“What has been questioned is the bonafide of the decision making process and the price/cost at which the same is to be procured,” the bench said.
The bench also noted that following its October 10 order the government has placed before it a note giving details of the steps taken in the decision-making process leading to the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
At this stage, the bench said, the court did not want to record any finding or view on the documents placed before it.
It also observed that information regarding induction of the Indian offset partner be given to the court and the petitioners.
When a counsel appearing for AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh told the bench he has also filed a petition in this matter, the court asked, “What is his interest? We don’t have to entertain so many petitions.”
India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of the Indian Air Force equipment. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.
Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.