The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to submit more details – including pricing and strategic details – related to the Rafale aircraft deal in a sealed cover in 10 days, ANI reported.
The court was hearing a batch of petitions, including a plea by former Union minister Yashwant Sinha, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, on the Rafale defence deal between India and France. On October 10, the 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.
The Supreme Court added that all information related to the deal that can be legitimately disclosed, which was given to the bench in a sealed cover, should be made available to the petitioners. All details protected under the Official Secrets Act should be made available to the court, the bench said, according to Live Law.
The Supreme Court 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”, according to Hindustan Times.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, however, said it would not be possible for the government to provide pricing details since the information had not been provided to Parliament either. The court told Venugopal to submit the objections in an affidavit.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph is hearing at least four petitions on the Rafale deal, including two filed by advocates Manohar Lal Sharma and Vineet Dhanda.
Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan are have sought a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the Rafale jet deal. They have alleged that the new contract negotiated by the Narendra Modi-led government in 2015 took the price per aircraft up from about Rs 700 crore to Rs 1,600 crore.
The petition says 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.
Sharma had 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 Assembly elections are held in five states in November-December. 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”.
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.