The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed public interest suits seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in the Rafale aircraft deal between the Indian government and France’s Dassault Aviation. “There is no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in Rafale deal,” the Court said. Following SC verdict, Congress party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said that the it was not a setback as the issue is still live in the "people's court". "The apex court order is not a setback as the Rafale deal is still an issue in the people's court. And the party will continue to raise the issue in the Parliament," Scindia told reporters.
Congress has been demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal.
The deal relates to the purchase of 36 fighter aircraft for an estimated Rs 580 billion by the defence ministry.
Saying there had been necessity of fighter aircraft and the country could not remain without fighter jets, the apex court mentioned that dealing with the pricing details of Rafale fighter jets was not its job.
Giving a clean chit of sorts to the Narendra Modi government in the Rafale deal, the court said: “We find no reasons to interfere in procurement process for 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.” Noting that there was a need for induction of fourth- and fifth-generation fighter aircraft like Rafale in the Indian Air Force fleet, the court questioned why nobody protested the procurement of the jets when the deal was finalised in September 2016.
On the issue of the offset partner, the Supreme Court said there was no substantial evidence of commercial favouritism done to any private entity.
SC also said that it could not “compel the government to procure 126 or 36 fighter jets” and that it totally depended on the government’s decision.
A TIMELINE ON RAFALE DEAL
-Aug 28, 2007: Ministry of Defence issues Request for Proposal for procurement of 126 MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) fighters.
-Sep 4, 2008: Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance group incorporates Reliance Aerospace Technologies Ltd (RATL).
-May 2011: Air Force shortlists Rafale and Eurofighter jets.
-Jan 30, 2012: Dassault Aviation's Rafale aircraft comes up with the lowest bid.
-Mar 13, 2014: Work Share agreement signed between HAL and Dassault Aviation under which they were responsible for 70 per cent and 30 per cent of the work, respectively, for 108 aircraft.
-Aug 8, 2014: Then defence minister Arun Jaitley tells Parliament that 18 direct 'fly-away' aircraft expected to be delivered in 3-4 years from signing of the contract. Remaining 108 aircraft to be delivered in the next seven years.
-Apr 8, 2015: The then foreign secretary says detailed discussions underway between Dassault, MoD and HAL.
-Apr 10: New deal for acquisition of 36 direct 'fly-away' aircraft from France announced.
-Jan 26, 2016: India and France sign MoU for 36 Rafale aircraft.
-Sep 23: Inter-governmental agreement signed.
-Nov 18: Government states in Parliament that the cost of each Rafale aircraft to be approximately Rs 670 crore and that all aircraft will be delivered by April 2022.
-Dec 31, 2016: Dassault Aviation's Annual Report reveals the actual price paid for the 36 aircrafts at about Rs 60,000 crore, more than double the government's stated price in Parliament.
-Mar 13, 2018: PIL in SC seeks independent probe into Centre's decision to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and disclosure of the cost involved in the deal before Parliament.
-Sep 5: SC agrees to hear PIL seeking stay on Rafale fighter jet deal.
-Sep 18: SC adjourns hearing on PIL seeking stay on Rafale fighter jet deal to October 10.
-Oct 8: SC agrees to hear on October 10 fresh PIL seeking direction to Centre to file in "sealed cover" the details of the agreement for buying 36 Rafale fighter Jets.
-Oct 10: SC asks Centre to provide details of decision making process in the Rafale fighter jet deal in a sealed cover.
-Oct 24: Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan moves SC, seeking registration of FIR into Rafale fighter jet deal.
-Oct 31: SC asks Centre to place before it in a sealed cover within 10 days the pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
-Nov 12: Centre places price details of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a sealed cover before SC. It also gives details of steps that led to finalisation of the Rafale deal.
-Nov 14: SC reserves order on pleas seeking court-monitored probe in Rafale deal.
-Dec 14: SC says there is no occasion to doubt the decision-making process of the Modi government and dismisses all the petitions seeking direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the jet deal.