New Delhi: In a significant development, the Apex Court today directed the Modi Government to provide within 10 days pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets bought from France.
The top court said, “We would like the details of pricing and cost to be submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover. This may be submitted in the next 10 days.”
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for Govt. however, told the court that it would not be possible for the government to provide pricing details to the court since this information is classified.
The Supreme Court, which is hearing petitions questioning the deal, told Attorney General KK Venugopal to make this point in their affidavit.
At the last hearing, the court had ordered the government to provide details of the decision-making process. But the three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had then made it clear that it was only seeking this information “for the purpose of satisfying ourselves”. The bench had then, also underlined that the centre’s report did not have to cover pricing or suitability of the equipment for the Indian Air Force.
The court is hearing petitions, including those filed by former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, questioning the jet deal between India and France and the choice of Anil Ambani’s inexperienced Reliance Defence as India partner for Rafale maker Dassault.
Mr Shourie called the court’s order a “very, very substantial step forward” in the controversy. “Confidentiality does not relate to price, only technical specifications.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has led the opposition charge against the Rafale deal, repeatedly accusing the government of negotiating a not-so-favourable contract just to benefit Anil Ambani. Both the government and the industrialist have denied the charge.
The political row escalated sharply after Francois Hollande said in an interview last month that France had no role in the selection of Anil Ambani’s company as India partner.
The NDA’s decision to enter an $8.7 billion government-to-government deal with France to buy the 36 Rafale warplanes made by Dassault was announced in April 2015, with an agreement signed a little over a year later. This replaced the previous United Progressive Alliance regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.