DAINIK NATION BUREAU
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to submit in a sealed cover in 10 days strategic, confidential and pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets being purchased from France, even as Attorney General KK Venugopal opposed it.
A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, however, said details considered “strategic and confidential” be placed before the court (only) and might not be shared with the petitioners’ advocates. “The court would also like to be apprised of the details with regard to the pricing/cost, particularly the advantage thereof, if any, which again will be submitted in a sealed cover,” it said. Details that could legitimately come in the public domain with regard to induction of the Indian offset partner, if any, be also furnished to the petitioners, it said.
The Bench — which also included Justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph — said details, including the steps in the decision-making process for the procurement of jets, which could “legitimately” be brought into public domain be made available to the petitioners. The SC’s latest direction is a departure from its earlier order on October 10 when it had asked the Centre to present before it only the details of steps taken in the decision-making process leading to the award of the order for purchase of Rafale jet from France. It had then said the details sought “would not cover the issue of pricing or the question of technical suitability of the equipment for purposes of the requirement of the IAF”. India signed a pact with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of the IAF. Rafale is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft made by Dassault Aviation.
The directions came on pleas by advocate Vineet Dandha, advocate ML Sharma and the third one by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, who have sought a court-monitored CBI probe into the deal. The SC noted in none of the PILs, the “suitability” of jets and its “utility” to the IAF had been questioned.