After the controversial Rafale Deal was brought to light by the opposition the Supreme Court has now ordered the Central government to file affidavits listing the price details of the 36 Rafale Fighter Jets to be purchased by the Modi government from France.
Modi government recently on 10 April 2015 announced to buy 36 French-manufactured Rafale fighter jets off-the shelf from Dassualt Aviation, a French aircraft builders and integrator company. Although the proposal to buy Rafale jets was already pushed forward during the UPA regime in 2012 when the then UPA government had agreed to buy 126 jets from the French manufacturers but after the change of regime from UPA to BJP led government, the current Modi government took an alternate turn from the previous stance. The Central government now decided to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault aviation and manufacture and assemble the rest 108 in India by Reliance Aeronautical Limited.
As a part of the deal, in 2016 Modi government agreed to pay Rs. 58,000 crore for the 36 off-the shelf Dassault Rafale twin-engine fighters and 15 percent of the cost to be made in advance.
Series of allegations and counter-allegations were made post the deal was brought in light by the UPA led opposition as the detailed price per Rafale were not officially announced by the government.
Congress accused Modi government of massive irregularities in the deal, further stating that when the rate per Rafale was fixed at Rs. 526 crore during the UPA regime then why Modi government has now decided to purchase the Rafale at Rs. 1,670 per Rafale. Although the central government has refused to release the actual pricing by taking shield of India and France secrecy deal 2008, UPA government is standing firm on its demand to know the pricing.
Now the Supreme Court in a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice U.U. Lalit and K M Joseph has asked the centre to share information which can be brought in public domain within 10 days. Supreme Court has further asked the petitioner to respond to the matter after 7 days of the disclosure to be made by the centre now.
Since Attorney General K K Venugopal showed resentment on the court order by stating that the pricing cannot be disclosed because it was covered under the Officials Secrets Acts, Supreme Court bench states:
“If the government feels the pricing of Rafale jet can’t be shared even in sealed cover with the court, then let it file an affidavit to that effect.”
Supreme Court’s intervention was necessary in this case because of the many loose strings attached in the case. Starting from first things first, why did the government offer the deal of manufacturing Rafales to a private company- Reliance Aerospace Limited with no recorded history of manufacturing defence material irrespective of existence of state run- Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) managed by the Ministry of Defence, a company which has a record of manufacturing combat jets like Vampire, HAL Ajeet and many more, also to mention that Dassualt Aviation and HAL were previously under talks to prepare a blue print for the deal.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman herself showed displeasure over the issuing of exact prices of the jet, and why is that the government decided to do away with the previous deal of purchasing all the 126 Rafale from France, why the sudden shift to manufacture the Rafales and not purchase them even after the keenness to sell 126 Rafales was shown by Dassault Aviation.
Arun Jaitley have refuted the claims of any scam involved in this case and also have further refused to share any information with regards to the pricing. Central government is strictly against the position to submit the price details following the Official Secrecy Act, but if this will be the government’s stance how will the taxpayers know where has their money gone or going in the name of their security.