The government today questioned the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review the Rafale deal to buy jet, when the apex court resumed hearing a clutch of petitions seeking a probe into the deal. “The decision we need to take is whether to bring the fact on pricing in public domain or not,” a bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said.
The Centre, through its Attorney General KK Venugopal, questioned if the Court was competent to judicially review the Rafale deal. Venugopal added that the “matter is for experts to decide on, not the court”.
The bench, also comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, told Venugopal that there is no question of any debate on pricing without making the facts public. The bench clarified that any discussion on price will be considered if it thinks the issue should enter the public domain.
The petitioners have questioned the government-to-government deal between India and France for purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft in flyaway condition. The judges also sought the presence of an Indian Air Force officer so that the court could seek clarifications from them. Air Marshall Alok Khosla, Commander-in-Chief of Eastern Air Command and Deputy Chief of Air Staff VR Chowdhuri reached the court to answer questions from judges.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan said there could not be any secrecy over pricing of the fighter jets when the government had disclosed the price in parliament on previous occasions. “It’s a bogus argument for govt to say they can’t disclose pricing. In new deal, Rafale jets cost 40 per cent more than earlier deal,” he said.
The petitioners in the case include advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, lawyer Vinnet Dhanda, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan.