Mon, 22 Jul 2019

New Delhi [India], Dec 13 (ANI): The court on Friday will give its decision on the pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

The apex court on November 14 had reserved its judgment in the case. The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph of the apex court heard petitioners and the government lawyers before reserving the verdict in the case.

During the arguments, the top court was informed by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan that the decision making process for acquisition of 36 Rafale aircrafts and the consequent increase in price and grant of offsets to Reliance was "not bonafide" and "requires investigation by the CBI."

Representing the government, Attorney General of India, K.K. Venugopal had said: "There is no sovereign guarantee from the French Government on the delivery of 36 Rafale jets but there is a Letter of Comfort from the French Prime Minister."

Venugopal had also informed the court that the government had no role in selecting offset partners for Dassault in the Rafale deal and the selection of Reliance as an offset partner was a commercial decision taken by Dassault Aviation.

When the Court asked the Centre about the change in offset guidelines in 2015, Additional Secretary of Defence Ministry had explained that as per defence offset guidelines, the offset contract runs concurrently with the main contract. Venugopal also informed the Court that Dassault has not yet submitted details of offset partner to government.

On October 31, the government had contended before the Supreme Court that details of the pricing cannot be brought in the public domain on account of the secrecy agreement between India and France of 2008.

Making his submissions in the case, AG K.K. Venugopal told the Supreme Court that secrecy was not on the price of aircraft but on weaponry and avionics. He also informed the court that he also has not seen the sealed cover and may not be able to assist on price.

Bhushan, however during the hearing, countered this by saying that the government being unaware of the offset partner in the deal is contrary to the procedure laid down, as the norm requires the defence minister to approve the partnership.

During an earlier hearing, Air vice Marshal T. Chalapathi appeared before the Supreme Court along with other senior officials - Air Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, Deputy Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Anil Khosla. CJI Gogoi had asked them about the recent induction in the country's air defence system and also the latest ones being manufactured in India. (ANI)

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