A three judge bench of Supreme Court heard the petition against the Rafale deal today. The bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph was hearing three separate petitions seeking various details regarding India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The petitions were submitted by Advocate M. L. Sharma, Advocate Vineet Dhanda, and Robert Vadra’s brother in law, Tehseen S Poonawalla. The petitioners wanted a probe into the Rafale deal and disclosure of costs involved, and wanted cancellation of the deal alleging that it was the result of corruption.
Hearing the matter, the court refused to issue a notice to the central government at this moment. However, the apex court expressed its willingness to be apprised by the union government about the steps taken in the decision-making process which led to the purchase of the fighter jets. The bench clarified that the detail furnished to the court will not cover pricing of the aircraft and suitability of the same for Indian Air Force, due to the sensitive nature of such information.
The court also made it clear that they have not considered the allegations made by the petitioners in their respective petitions while seeking this information from the government. Significantly, the bench also noted that allegations “appear to be grossly inadequate”, and the court has sought this information only to satisfy itself.
Arguing for the government of India, Attorney General K. K. Venugopal urged the bench to not entertain the writ petitions, saying that it is a matter of national security. He also indicated that the purpose of PIL is to safeguard the interests of the poor, and therefore this case is not fit for PIL. The advocate general said that the petitions are political in nature which have been filed for political gains.
The AG also said that courts do not interfere in international treaties and this is not a judicially reviewable issue.
Hearing arguments from both sides, the bench said they would not issue any notice in the matter, but asked the government to furnish the detail of the decision making process in a sealed cover, without technological parameters or suitability of the aircraft.