No sovereign guarantee from France in Rafale deal: Govt to SC

New Delhi: The government told the Supreme Court Wednesday that no “sovereign guarantee” was given by the French government on the deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

The French government has, however, given a ‘letter of comfort’ to India, which would be good enough ‘governmental guarantee,’ Attorney General K K Venugopal told a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

“There is no sovereign guarantee but there is a letter of comfort from France dated September 25, 2015 which says that if there is any exigencies, it would be taken care of by them (France),” Venugopal told the bench. The issue of lack of sovereign guarantee was flagged by advocate Prashant Bhushan, who has filed a petition in the apex court along with former BJP veterans Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie seeking a court-monitored CBI investigation in the alleged criminality in the Rafale deal.

Bhushan claimed before the court that the Union Law Ministry had flagged two issues – absence of sovereign guarantee by France and international arbitration clause in IGA as per which the arbitration seat would be at Geneva – but despite that, the government went ahead with the deal.

Taking note of Bhushan’s submissions, the bench asked Venugopal to clarify on these aspects. “You can leave the aspect of arbitration but we need you to clarify your stand on sovereign guarantee by France,” the bench told the Attorney General.

Bhushan has alleged that the government has by-passed the concerns flagged by the law ministry as Union of India was paying huge money but there was no guarantee that the aircrafts will be delivered. The apex court has reserved its order on the pleas seeking CBI probe into the alleged irregularities in multi-billion 36 Rafale fighter jets deal with France.

India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The estimated cost of the deal is Rs 58,000 crore. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.