New Delhi: There is no reason for the court to sit in judgement on the correctness of the Rafale jet deal, the Supreme Court said on Friday, in a massive relief to the government, which has been accused of corruption in the Rs 59,000-crore deal for 36 jets. Allegations that the government had helped Anil Ambani’s company bag the offset contract were also dismissed by the court, which said: “There is no evidence of commercial favouritism.” The judges asserted that “perception by individuals cannot be the subject of roving inquiry” by the court.
The ruling today came on four petitions that had asked the Supreme Court to set up a court-monitored probe into the signing of the Rafale deal. The petitions had alleged that the Modi government not only overpaid for the Rafale jets but also promoted crony capitalism.
The Supreme Court, however, said that the Rafale deal process was perfectly fine and dismissed all PILs that demanded a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal. The Supreme Court also said it was not its job to examine the pricing of the Rafale jets. The government had previosuly said that the pricing details could not be made public due to national security concerns.
“Our country cannot afford to be underprepared,” the court also said today, referring to the Indian Air Force being short on the number of aircraft it must have.
“Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of roving inquiry by the court,” the Supreme Court also said, adding that it had “no objection to any part of the deal”.
The Supreme Court ruling today comes as a boost for the Narendra Modi government, which the Opposition has attempted to corner on the Rafale deal issue.
Reliance Defence, the offset partner in the deal has issued a statement expressing content on the SC ruling. The statement was issued in the name on behalf of Anil Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Group.
“I welcome the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court today summarily dismissing all PILs filed on the Rafale contracts, and conclusively establishing the complete falsity of the wild, baseless and politically motivated allegations levelled against Reliance Group and me personally. We remain committed to India’s national security and to making our humble contribution towards the Make in India and Skill India policies of the Government in the critical area of defence including our offset partnership agreement with our valued partner, Dassault Aviation of France,” the statement read.
The Rafale controversy
- At the core of the opposition to the Rafale deal were charges that the Modi government had knowingly overpaid for the Rafale fighter jets and that it had promoted crony capitalism.
- The Rafale deal originally took shape under the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s second term. That deal was to buy 126 Rafale jets, which are manufactured by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
- Under the UPA deal, 18 Rafale jets were to be bought off-the-shelf or in a ‘flyaway’ condition while the rest were to be manufactured in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
- However, the Modi government, when it came to power, junked the UPA-era deal and signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafale jets in a ‘flyaway’ condition.
- The government’s deal also mandated that Dassault make investments in India by tying up with Indian companies. One of those companies chose by Dassault was Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
- The Congress party has alleged that the Modi government’s Rafale deal is more expensive than the UPA’s and that Reliance Defence was chosen as an offset partner under pressure from the Indian government. The government has rejected all the allegations.