SC dismisses pleas for court-monitored probe into Rafale deal

Giving a big relief to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after BJP’s poor performance in the recent five assembly elections, the Supreme Court today dismissed pleas seeking court-monitored probe into India’s multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi gave the verdict on a batch of pleas. “We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process. A country can’t afford to be under prepared. Not correct for the Court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinize all aspects,” said the apex court.

The Chief Justice also said that there was no reason for interference in the choice of offset partner and perception of individuals can’t be the basis for roving inquiry in sensitive issue of defence procurement’. The court had reserved its verdict after a hearing on November 14, indicating it would not go into the contentious issue of pricing in the deal. The petitions challenging the deal were filed by activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh and advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda earlier this year.

They had questioned the deal over the lack of transparency over the pricing of the jets; an offsets deal that seemed to favour a private firm; flouting of due process in closing the deal; and that the deal isn’t a government-to-government deal at all as it has been pitched because France refused to offer India a sovereign guarantee and instead gave it a letter of comfort. The NDA government has denied most of these charges.

The government said it cannot disclose pricing details publicly on account of a secrecy clause in its agreement with France and to ensure India’s enemies do not get to know details of the India-specific enhancements and weaponry of the Rafale. It had submitted details of the price in a sealed envelope to the Supreme Court, though, and the court said it would not get into the pricing issue. The government has also explained the process followed in an affidavit filed to the court, which has also been shared with the petitioners.

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