Supreme Court Asks Centre for Details on Rafale Pricing in Sealed Cover

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The petitions have sought a court-monitored CBI investigation into the procurement of the jets.

Caravan News

NEW DELHI — The Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice U. U. Lalit and Justice K. M. Joseph on Wednesday asked the government for details of pricing and cost of 6 Rafale fighter jets and the process of selecting Anil Ambani’s defence firm as Indian partner.

The government, however, said the information is classified and can not be shared.

“If pricing is something exclusive that you are not sharing, file an affidavit to that effect. State on affidavit that you cannot furnish those details” within 10 day, said Chief Justice Gogoi, reports livelaw.in.

In the last hearing, the court had asked for details of the decision-making process that led to the deal but had emphasized that it would not get into “pricing or suitability” of the jets.

Today, the court said, “We would like the details of pricing and cost to be submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover.” But it agreed that “strategic and confidential” information need not be disclosed, reports NDTV.

Four petitions are up for hearing before the court including those by former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie along with lawyer Prashant Bhushan, questioning the jet deal between India and France and the choice of Anil Ambani’s inexperienced Reliance Defence as India partner for Rafale maker Dassault.

The petitions have sought a court-monitored CBI investigation into the procurement of the jets. Also listed on Wednesday was Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh’s petition.

Mr. Bhushan invited the bench’s attention to the plea for investigation by the CBI into the complaint against several high public servants in connection with the Rafale deal, “Let the CBI inform the court as to what they have done about the complaint. It has been four weeks.”

“We have noted that your first prayer is for a CBI probe. Let the CBI put its house in order first That you will have to wait for”, stated the Chief Justice, according to the report.

The petition filed by Mr. Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan informs, in 2007, after going through the requisite procurement procedures at various levels, tenders were issued by the Ministry of Defence for the purchase of 126 fighter aircrafts and it was specified in the Request for Proposal that 18 of these aircrafts would be purchased from abroad in a ‘fly-away’ condition and the remaining 108 would be manufactured in India in the factory of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with transfer of technology from the foreign vendor. After the financial bids, Dassault Company manufacturing the Rafale aircraft was declared the lowest tenderer and thereafter price negotiations began. These negotiations were at a very advanced stage (95% complete) by 25 march 2015, states the petition.

However, when the Prime Minister visited France in April 2015, a new deal was announced to purchase only 36 Rafale Aircrafts in a ‘fly-away’ condition without any transfer of technology and make in India. It later turned out that the new deal involved 50% of the value of the contract to be given as “offset contracts” to Indian companies and that the government informally told Dassault and the French government that the bulk of the offset contracts would have to be given to the Reliance Aerospace Ltd. (RAL) company of Mr. Anil Ambani.

It is also alleged that the price of the aircraft in the new deal has been increased from approximately 700 crores per aircraft to over 1600 crores per aircraft without any legitimate public interest.

Petitions before the court call for an investigation into the Rs. 59,000 crore deal for 36 fighters from Dassault, announced in 2016 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks in Paris with then French president Francois Hollande.

(With inputs from livelaw.in)

 

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