Supreme Court dismisses all pleas against Rafale deal; Opposition demands JPC probe

Clay Curtis
December 15, 2018

Earlier on Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed all petitions seeking an investigation into the Rafale fighter jets deal between India and France. In an affidavit submitted to the apex court on Saturday morning, it said there was a grammatical typographical error in the verdict and asked for a necessary correction.

"Perception of individuals can not be the basis of fishing and roving inquiry by this court, especially in such matters", said a three-judge bench, while dismissing all the writ petitions which sought a Supreme Court-monitored probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the deal.

He also said the deal has protected the security of the country.

The deal has been caught in controversy since September when Francois Hollande, who was the French president at the time of the deal, told news website Mediaport that Indian government had pressured Dassault to partner with India's Reliance Defence to meet its "offset policy", BBC reported.

The top court had reserved its order on 14 November after hearing the petitions that alleged irregularities and corruption. "The government said in the Supreme Court that the report is in public domain".

Critics had accused Modi of using the 2016 multi-billion dollar accord between India and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault for Rafale aircraft to favour a key billionaire backer.

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"The material placed before us shows that the government has not disclosed pricing details, other than the basic price of the aircraft, even to Parliament, on the ground that sensitivity of pricing details could affect national security, apart from breaching the agreement between the two countries", a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph said.

Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender.

However, during a visit to France in 2015 Modi scrapped the deal, signed under the previous government led by the Congress party, and ordered instead 36 jets - all to be built in France - for an estimated $9.4 billion.

Stating that the perception of individuals can not be the basis of interfering with the deal, Gogoi, pronouncing the judgment said that the deal was inked on September 23, 2016, but nothing was called into question till former French President Francois Hollande in an interview alleged that there was pressure from Indian government on the choice of offset partner. The Congress leader said he had not seen any such CAG report, calling the court's observation "strange" and "untrue". This can not be the basis of judicial review.

The lawyer who argued the case for the petitioners seeking a probe into the deal, disagreed with the court's decision.

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