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SC seeks pricing details of Rafale jets

ANI | Updated: Oct 31, 2018 19:08 IST

New Delhi [India], Oct 31 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought details from the Narendra Modi-led government on the pricing and strategies of Rafale fighter jets in a sealed cover within ten days.
The pricing of the aircraft, the government so far had maintained, is covered under the Official Secrets Act.
The decision from the Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph came after hearing a clutch of petitions filed to seek investigation into the alleged irregularities in the multi-billion dollar deal.
A bench of the top court asked the Centre to bring in public domain the details of the decision-making process of the deal, except those that are “confidential and have strategic importance”.
“The court would also like to be apprised of the details with regard to the pricing/cost, particularly, the advantage thereof, if any, which again will be submitted to the court in a sealed cover,” said the bench.
"Details that could legitimately come in the public domain with regard to the induction of the Indian offset partner (if any) be also furnished to the learned counsels for the parties, as well as, the petitioners in person. Details in this regard which may be considered to be strategic and confidential may, at this stage, be placed before the court and may not be furnished to the counsels for the parties or the petitioners-in-person,” said the court in its order.
The matter will next be heard on November 14.
Former ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had filed the petition in the case had sought a court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe in the procurement of the fighter jets.
Responding to the request of CBI probe made by Bhushan, Chief Justice Gogoi remarked that "for that, you have to wait, let CBI put its house in order first."
At the outset, Chief Justice Gogoi said that none of the PILs filed in the case have questioned the suitability of the fighter jets and its utility to the Indian Air Force but questioned the bona fides of the decision making process and the price of the jets at which it is to be procured.
Meanwhile, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury welcomed the decision of the top court but urged for the constitution of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC).
"The demand of Joint parliamentary committee should not be stalled due to this development. It is the responsibility of Parliament to question the ruling government and it is the responsibility of the Centre to answer Parliament. This process should be followed independently. We want the formation of the joint parliamentary committee," he said.
On October 27, the Centre had submitted the details of the decision-making process of the Rafale deal to the Supreme Court's Secretary-General in a sealed cover.
The Rafale jet deal controversy has been on the boil over the last few months. The Congress and other opposition parties have been alleging irregularities in the high-profile deal.
The fighter jet is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft, which security analysts believe can be a 'game-changer' for India's defence system.
The deal to procure its fleet was announced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with then French president François Hollande in 2016.
Political slugfest over the deal escalated when Hollande, in an interview last month, claimed that France had no choice in the selection of Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as offset partner for Rafale-maker Dassault. (ANI)