Petitioners against Rafale deal seek government clarification on this question
The day-long hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday saw questions being raised continuously on the fact that the Indo-French Joint Statement was issued on April 10, 2015, well over a year before the Cabinet Committee on Security finally approved the Rafale deal in August 2016.
The petitioners asked the three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to direct the government to file a response in an affidavit on this question.
“Till March 25, 2015, the deal for 126 aircraft was on; 108 jets were to be produced by HAL. In just two weeks, on April 10, 2015, a joint statement is issued for a new deal for 36 Rafale jets with same equipment…The 2007 deal for 126 aircraft was approved by the Defence Acquisition Council. If our combat potential had declined sharply, what was the logic of striking a new deal for just 36 jets? The new deal should have been for more than 126 fighter aircraft,” the counsel for parliamentarian Sanjay Singh argued.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who filed a joint petition in person with former Union Ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, claimed that the government “short-circuited” a fresh tender process for 36 Rafale jets by opting for the restricted Inter Government Agreement (IGA) mechanism.
“Who took the decision for 36 jets? On what basis did the PM announce the deal for 36 jets? He had no authority. How was the 126 jets reduced to 36 jets? There is gross violation of procedure in decision-making process,” Mr. Bhushan submitted.
He said three-and-a-half years had passed since the signing of the deal. The first jet would be delivered in September 2019 and delivery is to continue till 2022. He alleged that Dassault gifted ₹284 crore to a company of Anil Ambani though its net worth was zero.
He sought a CBI probe under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Bench called for senior Air Force officers to be present in court. “Your requirement would be fifth or sixth generation fighter jets?” Chief Justice Gogoi asked Air Vice Marshal J. Chalapati, who was flanked by other senior IAF officers. Mr. Chalapati informed that the requirement was “above” fourth generation fighters. He explained that fifth generation fighters have niche technology like stealth and electronic warfare capabilities.