Rafale deal: Supreme Court gives clean chit to Modi govt

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today gave the Narendra Modi government a clean chit on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and dismissed all the petitions seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the deal.

A bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar deal.

On the issue of offset partner, the bench, also comprising justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said there was no substantial evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity.

The top court said there has been a necessity for fighter aircraft and the country cannot remain without jets.

The CJI, who read out the judgement for the three-judge bench, said no reasons were found to interfere in the procurement process for the fighter jets.

The apex court said it is not the job of the court to deal with the comparative details of the pricing. It said it does not find substantial matter to interfere with the issue of procurement, pricing and offset partner.

It noted the need for induction of 4th and 5th generation of fighter aircraft like Rafale in the Indian Air Force.

Both sides involved in the deal have clarified all aspects in the procurement of Rafale jets deal, the bench said.

The court said nobody questioned the procurement of Rafale jets when the deal was finalised in September 2016.

It added that questions were raised on the jet deal only after former French president Francois Hollande came out with the statement. This cannot be the basis of a judicial review, it said.

The court said it cannot compel the government to procure 126 or 36 fighter jets. That depends on its decision.

The verdict was pronounced on a batch of pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the deal.

The apex court reserved its verdict on the batch of pleas on 14 November.

Advocate M L Sharma was the first petitioner in the case. Later, another lawyer, Vineet Dhanda, had moved the apex court with the plea for court-monitored probe into the deal.

AAP leader Sanjay Singh has also filed a petition against the fighter jet deal. After the three petitions were filed, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with activist advocate Prashant Bhushan, moved the apex court with a plea for a direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the deal.

CONG SAYS VERDICT NOT SETBACK

The Supreme Court order giving the government a clean chit on the Rafale deal is not a setback as the issue is still live in ‘people’s court’ and the Congress will continue to raise it in Parliament, senior party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said today.

The apex court has dismissed all the petitions seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and said there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar defence deal.

“The apex court order is not a setback as the Rafale deal is still an issue in the people’s court. And the party will continue to raise the issue in Parliament,” Scindia told reporters.

RAJNATH DEMANDS RAHUL’S APOLOGY

Union Minister Rajnath Singh today said in the Lok Sabha that Congress president Rahul Gandhi should apologise on the floor of the House for ‘misleading’ the country on the Rafale jet deal issue