The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the government to furnish details of its decision-making process in a sealed cover by October 29, sans pricing and technical information, in the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale deal with France for procurement of 36 fighter aircraft.
“We are not issuing notice to the government,” a three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said as attorney-general KK Venugopal termed the PILs as “political petitions”.
The judges also said that the averments made in the petitions are “grossly inadequate”.
Clarifying that it is not getting into “pricing or suitability” of the jets, the CJI said, “We want to satisfy ourselves on the steps taken in the decision-making. We are not going into the issue of suitability keeping in mind the sensitivity of the issue.”
The two petitions filed by lawyers Vineet Dhanda and ML Sharma sought an apex court-monitored investigation into the deal for 36 fighters from France’s Dassault and insisted that the Centre either reveal details of the purchase or scrap it. One of the petitions also alleged “corruption” in the procurement of jets.
Venugopal said that the petitions have not raised any public interests concerning the poor and rather they are “political interest petitions”, and the petitioners have selectively quoted the questions which have been answered in Parliament.
Seeking dismissal of the petitions, Venugopal argued that “the national security is involved and the court is being used on the eve of polls to gain politically in the bitter fight between the government and the opposition.”
He also said that a bitter political fight was going on in the country over the Rafale deal in the election year and entertaining the petitions may be used politically and moreover, such policy decisions cannot be reviewed judicially.
“This is a political petition and not a public interest litigation and is part of bitter fight going on between ruling and opposition party. If notice is issued, it will go to the Prime Minister… Please don’t entertain such petitions,” the AG argued.
The Rafale deal is a defence agreement signed between the governments of India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly-away condition as a part of the upgrading process of the Indian Air Force’s equipment.
The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation. The Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.