In a big victory for the Narendra Modi led NDA government, the Supreme Court on Friday gave a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
A three-Judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi dismissed all the petitions, and said no Rafale probe was required.
The petitions seeking probe into the deal were filed by Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, advocates M.L.Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, and AAP lawmaker in Parliament Sanjay Singh.
Taking up the petitions on Friday, the CJI said the court studied the materials carefully and interacted with defence officials, and was “satisfied” with the NDA government’s decision making process.
Here’s what the Supreme Court said in its order:
- “The court does not find substantial matter to interfere with issue of procurement, pricing and offset partner in Rafale jet deal.”
- “We studied the materials carefully, interacted with defence officials and we are satisfied with decision making process.”
- “This is not court’s job to deal with pricing details of Rafale fighter jets.”
- “We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the procurement process. A country cannot afford to be under-prepared. Not correct for the court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinise all aspects.”
- “There is no reason for interference in the choice of offset partner and perception of individuals can’t be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement.”
- “We do not find any material to show that it is commercial favouritism.”
- “We cannot compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft.”
- “There has been necessity of fighter aircraft and country cannot remain without fighter jets.”
The bench had on November 14 reserved its verdict on a batch of pleas seeking a Rafale probe.
Reserving its verdict, the Supreme Court had said the pricing details of Rafale jets could only be discussed once it decided on whether to make it public.
The observation by the apex court had come after the government refused to publicly divulge pricing details of the deal, saying the Rafale deal pricing details are a matter of “national security” and cannot come under judicial review.
The verdict comes as a major boost for the Narendra Modi government that had been cornered over the Rafale deal ahead of the five-state Assembly elections.
Manufactured by aerospace company Dassault Aviation, the Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft.
India has signed an agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, costing approximately Rs 58,000-crore (about USD 8 billion), in a fly-away condition for Indian Air Force equipment upgrade.