SC verdict on Rafale case today, petitions sought probe into jet deal

New Delhi, December 13: The Supreme Court will on Friday deliver its verdict on petitions seeking a court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the deal between India and France for the Rafale fighter jets.
The court had reserved its verdict after a hearing on November 14, indicating it would for now steer clear of the contentious pricing issue in the deal.
The petitioners, 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 had asked for an investigation on four grounds: 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 Narendra Modi government has denied most of these allegations and also 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.
“We are yet to take a call on whether it (cost) should be brought in public domain,” Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi had told attorney general KK Venugopal in the November hearing.
The government has also explained the process followed in an affidavit filed to the court, which has also been shared with the petitioners.
The new deal for Rafale by the Modi government replaced one being negotiated by the previous United Progressive Alliance government. It has become controversial, with the Opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is Rs 1,670 crore for each, three times the Rs 526 crore, the initial bid by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. The deal has also become controversial on account of the fact that one of the offset deals signed by Dassault is with a joint venture it has with Reliance Group of Anil Ambani. The Congress claims the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to provide Ambani this opportunity for an offset deal. Both the government and Reliance Group have repeatedly denied this. (Agencies)