- Supreme Court says it has no objection to any part of the Rafale deal
- The court dismissed petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the deal
- The petitions had alleged that rules were overlooked while signing the Rafale deal
The Supreme Court said today that it found nothing wrong with a deal the Narendra Modi government signed with France to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said that it had studied the matter “extensively” and that it was “satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process [of signing the Rafale deal].”
The ruling today came on four petitions that had asked the Supreme Court to set up a court-monitored probe into the signing of the Rafale deal. The petitions had alleged that the Modi government not only overpaid for the Rafale jets but also promoted crony capitalism.
The Supreme Court however said that the Rafale deal process was perfectly fine and dismissed all PILs that demanded a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal. The Supreme Court also said it was not its job to examine the pricing of the Rafale jets. (The government had previosuly said that the pricing details could not be made public due to national security concerns).
“Our country cannot afford to be underprepared,” the court also said today, referring to the Indian Air Force being short on the number of aircraft it must have.
“Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of roving inquiry by the court,” the Supreme Court also said, adding that it had “no objection to any part of of the deal”.
The Supreme Court ruling today comes as a boost for the Narendra Modi government, which the Opposition has attempted to corner on the Rafale deal issue.
THE RAFALE CONTROVERSY
At the core of the opposition to the Rafale deal were charges that the Modi government had knowingly overpaid for the Rafale fighter jets and that it had promoted crony capitalism.
The Rafale deal originally took shape under the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s second term. That deal was to buy 126 Rafale jets, which are manufactured by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
Under the UPA deal, 18 Rafale jets were to be bought off-the-shelf or in a ‘flyaway’ condition while the rest were to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
However, the Modi government, when it came to power, junked the UPA-era deal and signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafale jets in a ‘flyaway’ condition.
The government’s deal also mandated that Dassault make investments in India by tying up with Indian companies. One of those companies chose by Dassault was Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
The Congress party has alleged that the Modi government’s Rafale deal is more expensive than the UPA’s and that Reliance Defence was chosen as an offset partner under pressure from the Indian government.
The government has rejected all the allegations.