Supreme Court to pronounce judgment in Rafale case today

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File

A view of the Supreme Court of India in New Delhi. File   | Photo Credit: Rajeev Bhatt

The court wrapped up in November hearings on a batch of petitions seeking an independent court-monitored investigation into the deal.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Friday will pronounce the Supreme Court's judgment on a batch of petitions seeking an independent court-monitored investigation into the government's deal for procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets.

Marathon hearings on the petition ended in November, with the government admitting that there was no sovereign guarantee from the French government on the 36 Rafale jets’ deal in case the aircraft’s manufacturer, Dassault Aviation, defaulted.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, however, had assured there was a “Letter of Comfort” from France, which is as good as a sovereign guarantee. The petitioners had countered that such a letter has no legal validity.

The Bench, which also comprises Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, also heard Air Vice Marshal J. Chalapati. He had explained in the Court how fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft have “niche technology”. The Court finally reserved the case for judgment.

Amendment to Offset Policy

The Court had questioned the government’s stand on having no “role” in Dassault’s choice of an Indian Offset Partner (IOP). An amendment to the Offset Policy, which allows “no offset obligations” for the first three years of a contract, had also come under the spotlight.

The amendment was made with retrospective effect shortly after the Joint Statement on the 36 Rafale jets was issued during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Paris on April 10, 2015. According to the current offset contract, Dassault needs to inform the Centre about its IOP only by October 2019.

The Court had questioned the legality of the retrospective amendment and asked that the formal proposal indicating details of IOPs and products for offset discharge should have been part of the main procurement proposal.

"What if the IOP is not good enough? Does it serve the country’s interests? What was the need to amend offset policy/guidelines with retrospective effect?” Justice Joseph had asked.

The Additional Defence Secretary, who was present, had submitted that IOPs would be confirmed by the vendor (Dassault) either at the time of seeking offset credits or a year prior to discharge of offset obligations.

Former Union minister Arun Shourie, one of the petitioners, had submitted separately that there was “government interference” in the choice of an IOP. Mr. Shourie had alleged that Reliance Defence, “a company with no defence experience”, was the IOP.

“Dassault is a company which is in serious financial difficulties. But for this order of 36 jets, it (Dassault) would have been phased out… Dassault has experience since 1929. It would never have gone for an IOP registered only a few days before the deal,” Mr. Shourie argued. eom

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Printable version | Mar 24, 2020 1:05:47 PM |

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