'Major Development' says Yashwant Sinha as SC Gives Govt 10 Days for Rafale Price and Offset Partner Details
“It will bring the issue into the open now”: Sinha
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the National Democratic Alliance government to provide pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets bought from France, within ten days. And the reasons and process leading to the selection of the offset partner.
The court was hearing petitions questioning the Rafale deal, including those submitted by Arun Shourie, Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Bhushan.
“This is a major development,” former finance minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha told The Citizen, “as it will bring the issue out into the open now.”
The Supreme Court said it would “like to be apprised of the details with regard to pricing and cost particularly the advantages thereof, if any, which again will be submitted to the court in a sealed cover.”
The government’s top law officer KK Venugopal told the court it would not be possible for the government to provide pricing details to the court, since this information had not been provided to parliament either. To this the court said, “If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so.”
The bench headed by Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi and comprising Justices UU Lalit and KM Joseph said that the “core of information” that can be brought in the public domain should be shared with the “petitioner and petitioners in person.”
The bench observed that none of the petitioners had questioned the suitability of the Rafale jets, their equipment or their utility to the Indian Air Force. “What has been questioned is the bonafide of the decision making process and the price/ cost at which the same is to be procured,” the bench said.
It stated that after the October 10 order, the government had submitted a note giving details of the steps taken in the decision making process that led to the procurement of the 36 Rafale fighters.
The bench said that information about the induction of the Indian offset partner be given to the court and the petitioners.
“We are of the view that the information conveyed upon in the report which can legitimately be brought into the public domain, be made available to the lead counsel of the petitioners in all cases. Along with the said facts, further details that could legitimately come in the public domain with respect to the induction of the Indian offset partner, if any, be also furnished to the lead counsel of the parties,” the bench ordered.
Yashwant Sinha welcomed the ruling as a “major development.” He told The Citizen that all the points raised by him, Prashant Bhushan and Arun Shourie before the court and in the public domain had been addressed by the Supreme Court bench today, in particular the question of pricing and the choice of offset partner.
“This is a very positive development,” Sinha said as now “the truth will be out.” He said that the apex court's intervention had ensured that “facts could no longer be hidden behind the veil of secrecy and confidentiality”.
The petitioners had also asked for a CBI enquiry into the Rafale deal, but this was not entertained by the court, with CJI Gogoi pointing out that the investigating agency needed to put its own house in order first.