The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to submit details of the decision-making process in the Rafale deal with France in a sealed envelope by October 29. A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, clarified that it was not asking for information on the price of the fighter jets and technical particulars.
“We are not on the issue of pricing and suitability of the Rafale jets but only on the decision-making process,” the Bench, also comprising Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, said.
The Supreme Court, which was hearing various petitions seeking an investigation into the controversial fighter jet deal, also said that it was not issuing any formal notice to the Centre.
Attorney General K.K. Venugopal opposed the petitions, saying that they were politically motivated and should be dismissed. Mr. Venugopal stressed that the details of the deal cannot be shown to anybody in the interest of national security and other issues related to the defence procurement process.
Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by Dassault Aviation, a French firm.
Advocate M.L. Sharma, one of the petitioners, has sought a stay on the deal. Terming it as an “outcome of corruption”, Mr. Sharma called for quashing of the deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets.
Another petitioner Vineet Dhanda, also a lawyer, expressed satisfaction at the Supreme Court’s order. “In a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) petition, my role is to bring an issue to the notice of the court.
The court has perhaps also taken note of my plea regarding submission of documents in a sealed envelope. After it goes through the documents, I am sure, the truth will come out,” Mr. Dhanda said.
The top court was also simultaneously hearing a petition by Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh to constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the supervision of the Supreme Court to probe the reasons for cancellation of the earlier deal for the purchase of 126 Rafale fighter jets.
Mr. Singh wants the SIT to probe how the figure of 36 jets was arrived at, without the formalities associated with such a highly sensitive defence procurement.
A separate plea was moved before the top court by Congress leader Tehseen S. Poonawalla seeking issuance of a direction against the Centre on why the Union Cabinet’s approval was not sought as part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) before signing the deal with France on September 23, 2016. Mr. Poonawalla later withdrew his petition.
The top court has fixed the petitions for further hearing on October 31.