There is no reason to doubt the decision-making process behind the Rafale jet deal, the Supreme Court said today in massive validation for the government, which has been repeatedly accused by the Congress of corruption in the Rs. 59,000-crore deal for 36 jets.
Petitions alleging that the government had gone for an overpriced deal to help Anil Ambani’s company bag an offset contract with jet-maker Dassault also didn’t wash with the top court, which dismissed the need for a probe and said: “There is no evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity.”
Here are the top 10 updates on the Rafale deal case in the Supreme Court:
- “Having heard the matter in detail, we find no reason for any intervention by this court on the sensitive issue…Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters,” said a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
- Backing the deal, the court said the country cannot afford to be unprepared or underprepared in a situation where “our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only 4th Generation, but even 5th Generation Aircrafts, of which, we have none”. The judges referred to a deposition by Air Force officers in court.
- The judges said the need for the aircraft was not in doubt. “We cannot sit in judgment over the wisdom of deciding to go in for purchase of 36 aircrafts in place of 126. We cannot possibly compel the Government to go in for purchase of 126 aircraft,” they said.
- The Congress and other opposition parties allege that the Centre scrapped a deal for 126 Rafale jets negotiated by the previous UPA government and entered an expensive new contract just to help Anil Ambani’s rookie defence company bag an offset partnership with the jet manufacturer Dassault.
- “We do not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian government,” said the Supreme Court, knocking down the allegations. Anil Ambani, in a statement, said the ruling “conclusively established the complete falsity of wild, baseless and politically motivated allegations”.
- The offset clause means that in exchange for the contract, Dassault has to invest half the value of the deal — about Rs. 30,000 crore — in Indian firms. Reliance Defence was chosen as one of those “offset” partners and is to manufacture plane parts – though not for the 36 jets ordered by India.
- The court said while examining petitions against the Rafale deal, it had to keep in mind the confines of national security, the subject of the procurement being crucial to the nation’s sovereignty.
- The judges also accepted the government’s argument on keeping pricing confidential. “It is certainly not the job of this court to carry out a comparison of the pricing details in matters like the present. We say no more as the material has to be kept in a confidential domain,” said the order.
- The order fueled an uproar in parliament at a time political parties are in election mode. “Truth always prevails,” said BJP chief Amit Shah, calling for an apology by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who repeatedly targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal while campaigning for the recent state elections.
- The Congress rejected the court order, saying it was based on false claims by the government. “We will continue to demand a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the deal,” said Congress leader and former minister Anand Sharma.