The Rafale saga continued in the Court today after the Government submitted details of the deal in a sealed envelope on November 12. The non-confidential details were shared with the petitioners as well, as per the court order.
Petitioner M.L. Sharma argued that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the deal before negotiations. Senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan made the claim that there was no sovereign guarantee from the French side in the deal.
Rafale deal case: Senior SC lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, also told the Apex Court that there was no sovereign guarantee from the side of the France government in the deal.
— ANI (@ANI) November 14, 2018
Bhushan also argued that delivery would have been quicker with HAL and this government has only delayed the delivery of the aircraft.
#UPDATE on #Rafale Hearing | Govt’s decision has only delayed the delivery of aircraft. The delivery would have been quicker with the previous deal with HAL. The delivery schedule will begin in September 2019 and will go up to 2022: Prashant Bhushan in SC. | #RafalePolitics pic.twitter.com/fO5yQvDkcB
— News18 (@CNNnews18) November 14, 2018
Bhushan also asserted that government’s claims of secrecy regarding pricing is a bogus argument. Bhushan further argued that authorities had abused their authority by awarding the contract to Dassault at inflated prices and by giving offset to Reliance.
#Update on #Rafale Hearing | #Rafale aircraft price has gone up from 155 million euros to 207 million euros in spite of the specifications remaining the same. Pricing can’t be disclosed is a bogus argument by the Govt: Prashant Bhushan in SC. | #RafalePolitics pic.twitter.com/FatnHCp5if
— News18 (@CNNnews18) November 14, 2018
Arun Shourie claimed that a company with the experience of Dassault would not have chosen Reliance as an offset partner. He further claimed that the Rafale deal was a way for the Franch company to tide over its financial crisis and therefore, they will support whatever the government says. The actual pricing of the aircraft is contrary to that revealed in the Parliament, Shourie added. He further asserted that HAL was perfectly capable of producing Aircraft, rubbishing claims to the contrary. “If HAL can build Sukhoi, why not Rafale?” Shourie asked.
Attorney General for the Government
CJI Ranjan Gogoi wished to meet an officer from the Airforce on the matter. The Attorney General assured that an officer will be there soon. AG Venugopal contended that the French government’s consent is required for producing the pricing documents. He also asserted that it was for the experts to decide what weaponry is to be bought. AG Venugopal also argued that the Rafale Deal wasn’t a matter for judicial intervention as the allegations have their origins in media reports and rumours. The CJI inquired whether the pricing of the previous deal was revealed in public, the Attorney General said that it wasn’t.
The second session began with Air Marshall and Air Vice Marshall in the Court. Answering the CJI’s queries, the IAF officers responded that the latest induction to the IAF was the Sukhoi 30 which were “3.5 generation” aircraft while the Rafale jet is a 5th generation aircraft with stealth technology. The IAF officers were then excused by the Court with the words, “It is a different war game here in Court.”
SC asks four senior IAF officials, an Air Marshal & four Air Vice-Marshals, to go back to their offices as it continued hearing. CJI Gogoi said: “The Air Marshal and Vice-Marshals can go back. It is a different war game here in court. Let you go back to your war rooms.”
— Dhananjay Mahapatra (@toi_dhanajayM) November 14, 2018
Voicing the arguments of the petitioners, Justice K.M. Joseph asked the AG how could the Prime Minister announce a new deal in April 2015. The CJI interjected and reminded the Justice that as per his own note, the withdrawal processes had begun the previous month. The AG also stated in Court that HAL offered a time slot that was 2.7 times of what Dassault was taking. The Government also has a letter of comfort by France, the AG said. He concluded his arguments by saying that IAF has been reporting the shortage of aircraft as a consequence of which it will be difficult for them to defend the country.
Sanjay Hegde appeals to ‘Judicial Conscience’
In his rejoinder argument, Prashant Bhushan argued that the objective of the intergovernmental agreement was only to eliminate the need for tenders. Sanjay Hegde appealed to the ‘judicial conscience’ of the Court and argued that deviations from the previous deal ought to satisfy it. He also argued that the Rafale deal cannot be termed an intergovernmental agreement and dubbed it a pure commercial contract with a private company.
After both sides presented their arguments in the Court, the three Justice bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi reserved its judgment on the petitions seeking a Court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal.