Rafale deal: Centre short-circuited fresh tender process, Bhushan tells Supreme Court

Rafale deal: Centre short-circuited fresh tender process, Bhushan tells Supreme Court

Courtesy : Nationalist Burea16/11/2018 08:41

The apex court on Wednesday began hearing petitions challenging the decision-making process involved in the proposed acquisition of 36 Rafale jets from French manufacturer, Dassault.

The Supreme Court Wednesday commenced its crucial hearing on pleas seeking court-monitored probe into procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph is perusing the pricing details submitted by the government in a sealed cover.

The initial arguments are being commenced by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, who told the court that the Inter Government Agreement was “illegal” and sought an investigation in the matter. Besides Sharma, another lawyer Vinnet Dhanda has also filed a plea in the matter.

Former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan also filed a joint petition. Later, AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh had also filed a petition. Mr. Sanjay Singh said while as per the March 25, 2015 deal for 126 aircraft with 108 jets were to be produced by HAL, the joint statement by the two sides specified a new deal for 36 Rafale jets with the same equipment as in 2007.

The petitioners want the Attorney-General, representing the Centre, to reply why a joint press statement was issued by Prime Minister along with French President Francois Hollande in April 2015, well over a year before the Cabinet Committee on Security finally approved the 36 jets' deal signed in Sep 2016.

'DPP condictions not complied with'
Petitioners for M/s. Bhushan, Shourie and Sinha alleged that the Centre had short-circuited the fresh tender process for 36 Rafale jets to procure them through restricted Inter Government Agreement (IGA) mechanism. Mr. Bhushan aruged that the Rafale deal qualified none of the three conditions laid down by the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).

Alleging gross violation of procedure in decision making process in the deal, Mr. Bhushan asked: “Who took the decision for 36 jets? On what basis did the PM announce the deal for 36 jets? He had no authority. How was the 126 jets reduced to 36 jets?”.

Asserting that not a single aircraft was delivered till now even after three-and-a-half years, Mr. Bhushan told the Supreme Court bench that if the 126 aircraftr deal was still on, “at least 18 jets would have been delivered by April 2019”.

Three and a half years have passed since deal signed on 36 Rafale jets. No aircraft till now. The 1st jet to be delivered in Sep 2019 and delivery to continue till 2022 If the 126 aircraft deal was still on, at least 18 jets would have been delivered by April 2019.

Meanwhile, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal opposed M. Bhushan plea to submit information on secrecy clause of Rafale agreement

The government note in the Supreme Court on the Rafale deal said the prolonged impasse over the 126-aircraft deal had caused an “urgent need” to acquire 36 Rafale jets or two squadrons in a fly-away condition.

Further argument details are awaited.

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