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Rafale deal hearing: SC reserves verdict on bunch of petitions demanding probe

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A crucial hearing on the Rafale deal row began in the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning. It is to be noted that the Supreme Court is examining the pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets, submitted by the Centre in a sealed cover.

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The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph are holding a crucial hearing in the case during which the petitioners, who have sought a court-monitored investigation into the deal, will also make submissions.

Hearing in Supreme Court over Rafale fighter jets deal – LIVE UPDATES

  • Supreme Court reserves verdict on a bunch of petitions demanding a probe into the Rafale deal.
  • “IAF has been writing to us that it will be difficult for them to defend our country due to shortage of aircraft, we have fallen behind a lot”, Attorney General KK Venugopal concludes his arguments.
  • Deputy Chief of Air staff, Air Marshal V R Chaudhari and two other officers from Indian Air Force appeared in the Supreme Court to assist it on the issue of the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
  • The officers appeared before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had sought their assistance in the case.
  • Chief Justice: Which are the countries flying Rafale, CJI Gogoi. IAF replies- France, Egypt and Qatar since 2014
  • Centre tells the Supreme Court that there is no sovereign guarantee from French government on delivery of 36 Rafale jets but there is a letter of comfort from the French Prime Minister.
  • SC has asked Additional Secretary, the Defence Ministry, as to “why were the offset guidelines changed in 2015? What about the country’s interest? What if the offset partner doesn’t do any production?” AG Venugopal, meanwhile, says Dassault Aviation has not yet submitted details of the offset partner to the government.
  • SC asks about the change in offset guidelines in 2015. Additional Secretary of the Defence Ministry explains the defence offset guideline to the court and says that the offset contract runs concurrently with the main contract.
  • AVM Chalapathi tells India needed 4 plus generation fighters and that is why the Rafale jet was selected.
  • Sukhoi, answers the Air Marshall. Also says that no new Generation inductions between 1985 to 2018.
  • “What is the latest induction to IAF?”, Chief Justice asks Air Marshall.
  • The IAF officers are apprising the court about the facts of the deal. Air Vice Marshal Chalapathi is present inside court number one and answering the questions put forth by CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
  • The Rafale deal hearing in the Supreme Court has resumed.
  • Officers of the Indian Air Force have arrived in the Supreme Court to answer the court’s queries on the Rafale deal.
  • The Supreme Court is now on lunch break and the hearing will resume at 2 pm.
  • In a setback to petitioners in the Rafale deal case, the Supreme Court has said that there is no need to disclose pricing details to the petitioners. Discussion on deal price will be held only if we allow it, the bench headed by the CJI says. “Any debate on pricing of the Rafale deal comes only if this Court decides those aspects needs to come in the public domain,” CJI Gogoi said.
  • AG Venugopal tells the court that secrecy is not on the price of aircraft but on weaponry and avionics. The price of Rafale with break-up of weapons and avionics has been shared with the apex court, but the court cannot sit in judicial review on it. Pricing details have been given in a sealed cover but there are factors like inter-governmental agreement which have barred its disclosure, he said.
  • The Centre takes a strong stand in the apex court. It said that the Rafale deal pricing details are a matter of “national security” and cannot come under judicial review.
  • AG Venugopal says pricing details cannot be shared with the petitioners. “Petitioners are not defence experts, only defence experts can discuss pricing details,” the AG is reported to have submitted in the court. The AG said he himself has not seen the pricing details of the Rafale deal submitted before the apex court in a sealed cover.
  • CJI Ranjan Gogoi asks Attorney General KK Venugopal, is any officer from the Indian Air Force present in the court to answer the queries on the issue? “After all, we are dealing with the Air Force, we would have liked to ask from the officer of IAF on the issue,” the court says.
  • Petitioner Prashant Bhushan has argued in the court that on pricing of the Rafale deal, there can’t be any secrecy when the government itself has disclosed the price in Parliament. “It’s a bogus argument for the government to say they can’t disclose the pricing details. In the new deal, Rafale jets have cost 40% more than the earlier deal,” Bhushan said in the court.
  • CJI Ranjan Gogoi pulls up petitioner-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, points out mistakes in his notes.
  • Prashant Bhushan told the court that there was no sovereign guarantee from the side of the French government in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
  • Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for former Union minister Arun Shourie – one of the petitioners in the Rafale deal case, argued before the bench that only in three situations, the inter-governmental route can be used.
  • Counsel appearing for AAP leader Sanjay Singh tells the Supreme Court that pricing of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal was revealed in the Parliament twice. Hence, the submission of the government that pricing details cannot be made public was not acceptable.
  • ML Sharma told the Supreme Court that the report filed by the government in the court reveals that there has been serious fraud while making the decision on the deal post May 2015.The petitioner has asked the court to transfer the matter to a five-judge bench.
  • As the hearing began in the Supreme Court, petitioner advocate ML Sharma demanded a probe by the CBI into the allegations levelled in connection with the Rafale fighter jet deal inked with France by the PM Modi-led NDA government. The petitioner argued that there was no adequate information available on the deal. The petitioners in the case have earlier demanded a court-monitored probe in the deal.

It is to be noted that the government had earlier said that the deal inked by it was on ‘better terms’ than the one negotiated by the erstwhile UPA government. “Further, the Defence Procurement Procedure set up in 2013 was completely followed”, the government noted. The Centre also told the court that it went ahead with the inter-governmental deal only after getting approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

India had inked a deal with France to procure 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition in a bid to provide much-needed air power to the Indian Air Force equipment. The deal was estimated at Rs 58,000 crore. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

Also Read: Rafale Deal: Eric Trappier interview full of ‘manufactured lies’, claims Congress

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