The multi-billion-dollar Rafale fighter jets deal between India and France has become a major controversial political issue, with new twists and turns coming up every other day. The Rafale deal case is related to the purchase of 36 fighter aircraft by the Ministry of Defence from France’s Dassault Aviation.
The multi-role Rafale aircraft is a twin-engine combat jet designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground attack. It is nuclear-capable and its electronic warfare systems can also perform reconnaissance and radar jamming roles.
From the price agreed on to selection of the offset partner, the Rafale deal has however been mired in row on several fronts.
The Opposition says the government procured the jets on a higher rate and accuses it of favouring private entity Reliance Defence Limited as local partner instead of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics.
Petitions were filed in the Supreme Court seeking an independent probe into the government’s decision on the Rafale deal. The petitions also sought disclosure of the deal cost before Parliament.
The Supreme Court last month dismissed a batch of pleas challenging the deal. It said there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision-making process” warranting setting aside of the contract.
As review pleas were filed challenging the verdict, the SC on 15 February expressed unhappiness over some lawyers filing “defective petitions”.
The delivery of the fighter jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019.
Rafale deal case timeline
December 30, 2002: Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP) are adopted to streamline procurement procedures for Rafale fighter jets. The NDA government was in power at the Centre at that time.
August 28, 2007: Ministry of Defence, under the UPA government, issues Request for Proposal for procurement of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) fighters.
September 4, 2008: Reliance group led by Mukesh Ambani incorporates Reliance Aerospace Technologies Ltd (RATL).
May 2011: Indian Air Force shortlists Rafale and Eurofighter jets.
January 30, 2012: Dassault Aviation offers the lowest bid for Rafale aircraft.
March 13, 2014: HAL and Dassault Aviation sign work share agreement under which they were responsible for 70% and 30% of the work, respectively, for 108 aircraft.
August 8: Then defence minister Arun Jaitley tells Parliament as many as 18 direct ‘fly-away’ aircraft cam be be delivered in 3-4 years from signing of the contract. Remaining 108 will follow in the next seven years.
April 8, 2015: Detailed discussions under way between Dassault, MoD and HAL, says the then foreign secretary.
April 10: New deal announced for acquisition of 36 direct ‘fly-away’ aircraft.
January 26, 2016: India and France sign MoU for 36 Rafale aircraft.
September 23: Inter-governmental agreement on the Rafale deal signed.
November 18: Government tells Parliament the cost of each Rafale aircraft to be approximately Rs 670 crore, and all planes will be delivered by April 2022.
December 31: Dassault Aviation’s Annual Report reveals the actual price paid for the 36 aircraft — about Rs 60,000 crore, more than double the price stated by the government in Parliament.
March 13, 2018: PIL filed in Supreme Court seeking an independent probe into the Centre’s decision to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and disclosure of the cost involved.
September 5: SC admits PIL seeking a stay on the Rafale fighter jet deal.
September 18: Apex Court adjourns hearing on the PIL to October 10.
October 8: SC agrees to hear on October 10 fresh PIL seeking direction to Centre to file in “sealed cover” details of the Rafale agreement with France.
October 10: Supreme Court asks Centre to provide details of decision making process in the deal in a sealed cover.
October 24: Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, move SC seeking registration of FIR into Rafale fighter jet deal.
October 31: SC asks Centre to place before it within 10 days in a sealed cover the pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
November 12: Centre places the price details in a sealed cover before SC, also listing the steps that led to finalisation of the Rafale deal.
November 14: SC reserves order on pleas seeking court-monitored probe in the Rafale deal.
December 14: SC dismisses all the petitions seeking direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the Rafale jet deal, says there is no occasion to doubt the decision-making process of the Modi government.
January 2, 2019: Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan file a review petition in the Supreme Court, challenging its December 14 verdict.
January 15: Hearing an unrelated case, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi says in the Supreme Court the review petitions, as also the government’s application to modify the Rafale judgment, are lying dormant in the court registry, waiting for lawyers to correct defects in the documents filed. (The government had moved the Supreme Court after its December 14 verdict for a correction in the judgment, saying it had “misinterpreted” information submitted to it in the sealed cover note about the pricing of the 36 fighter jet deal.)
(With PTI inputs)