Thursday, December 13, 2018

Rafale deal: Relief for Modi govt as SC dismisses all petitions seeking probe

Rafale deal probe: "We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process. A country can’t afford to be underprepared. It is not correct for the court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinise all aspects."

In a relief to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government over the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, the Supreme Court Friday dismissed all pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the matter. The Court said it was satisfied with the procurement process and that it found no reason to interfere in the pricing or the offset partner chosen as part of the deal.

“(There is) no occasion to doubt the process of decision making in the award of contract for the purchase of 36 Rafale jets. It is not the Court’s job to get into comparative pricing details,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said.

SC finds no irregularities in purchase of Rafale jets, dismisses all petitions for court-monitored probe

NEW DELHI: In a boost to the 
government, the Supreme Court on Friday said it found no irregularities in the NDA government's decision -making process to purchase 36 
fighter jets from Dassault under Indo-French intergovernmental agreement. The 
SC has dismissed all petitions for a court-appointed probe into the deal.
made it clear it wasn't the job of the
top court
to go into pricing when the need and quality of the aircraft is not in doubt, adding that it did not find anything wrong in the selection of Indian offset partners by Dassault.
The apex court gave a clean chit to the government on three aspects -- decision making process to purchase 36 Rafale jets instead of 126 by the previous UPA government, pricing of Rafale jets and selection of Indian offset partners including Anil Ambani owned Reliance Defence by Dassault.
Calling it "mere conjecture" on part of some persons to cite the UPA deal for 126 Rafale jets against NDA's 36 jets as implying that negotiations for 126 jets had come to a standstill, CJI Ranjan Gogoi said, "We cannot sit on judgment over 36 vs 126 nor can we compel the Union government to buy 126 jets."
The SC bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kaul and K M Jospeh also said personal perception of people on the deal matters little but admitted that the judiciary has a very constrained jurisdiction in examining defence deals of this nature especially when nation's adversaries have inducted fourth and fifth generation fighter jets compared to none by India.
"Our country cannot remain unprepared when adversaries have acquired fourth and fifth generation fighters compared to none by India. We have interacted with senior IAF officers and there is no doubt about the need and quality of Rafale jets," the court said.
Today's judgement is vindication of sorts for the Modi government which had maintained hat the deal was above board and was signed in national interest as the IAF is woefully short on fighter squadrons. The government was under relentless attack from the Congress in the run-up to the recent assembly elections in five states over the issue.
The petitions alleging massive irregularities in the deal were filed by advocates M L Sharma, Vineet Dhanda and Prashant Bhushan as well as politicians Sanjay Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie. 
India signed the agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The deal is estimated to be about Rs 58,000 crore (about USD 8 billion).
The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

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