The Supreme Court will hear a batch of petitions, including a plea by Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, on the Rafale defence deal on Wednesday, PTI reported.
On October 10, a bench had asked the Centre to submit, in a sealed cover, the “details of the steps” taken in the decision making process, sans pricing and technical information, that led to the deal.
The top court’s bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph will hear at least four petitions, including two filed by advocates Manohar Lal Sharma and Vineet Dhanda.
Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan are seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the Rafale jet deal between India and France. They claimed that the new contract negotiated by the Narendra Modi-led government in 2015 increased the price per aircraft from about Rs 700 crore to Rs 1,600 crore.
The petition said that high-ranking officials in the Indian government entered into a memorandum of understanding with the French government without consulting the Indian Air Force about their qualitative requirements for the aircraft.
Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh has also moved the top court against the deal.
Manohar Lal Sharma’s plea
Sharma filed an interim plea in the Supreme Court asking it to hear his public interest litigation, which claims there are irregularities in the Rafale jet deal, after the Assembly elections are held in five states in November, PTI reported. Sharma, reportedly the first lawyer to take the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to court, said he wanted to counter the claims that his petition was “politically motivated”.
In Chhattisgarh, voting will take place in two phases on November 12 and 20. While Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram will vote on November 28, Rajasthan and Telangana Assembly elections will be held on December 7. All the votes will be counted on December 11.
In his petition, Sharma has alleged the fighter jet deal was an outcome of corruption. He sought a first information report against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, businessman Anil Ambani and French company Dassault Aviation.
Sharma said the inter-government agreement between India and France was not approved by the Parliament. He sought an inquiry into the deal by a Special Investigation Team that would be monitored by the Supreme Court. He said that the agreement should be rejected till the investigation is completed.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The Congress has accused the Narendra Modi government of signing an overpriced deal. It has also alleged that the government helped a defence firm owned by businessman Anil Ambani, which has no experience in the sector, land a mega contract under the deal. The Centre and Ambani have refuted the allegations.
The government has refused to reveal the per-plane price that it has negotiated in the deal, citing a secrecy agreement with France.