Politicization of the Rafale Deal has been going on for a long time now as the ruling and the Opposition parties engage in a mutual game of blaming. As the NDA alleges the Opposition of stealing important documents in relation to the deal, the final take of the Supreme Court remains to be delivered.
The New Leam staff
Months after the December 14 verdict of the Supreme Court on the Rafale deal, the apex court is all set to review its verdict again. After a marathon hearing that lasted for more than three hours, the Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing in respect of this politically important case in which the government strongly resisted probe. The argument that was given by the ruling party was that the associated documents were stolen from the defence ministry and exposing them in court could undermine national security. The argument was put forward by Attorney General KK Venugopal from the side of the government but was strongly opposed by petitioners like Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie and others.
The decision to review the Supreme Court judgement was made after two petitions were filed challenging the verdict- one petition was made jointly by Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan and the second petition was filed by the AAP MLA Sanjay Singh.
In the Rafale Deal case, on December 14th the Supreme Court of India had given the verdict that “There was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process leading to the award of the contract and further there was no material to show that the government had favoured anyone commercially.”The Rafale deal, one the controversial issues under the Modi regime, came in light in 2017 when the Opposition party alleged the central government of massive irregularities in the Rafale deal.
In April, 2018, Modi government announced the decision to buy 36 French manufactured fighter jets from French aircraft builder- Dassault Aviation. The Rafale Deal was a carried forward deal which was initiated during the UPA regime. The congress party had agreed to purchase 126 Rafales from the French builders but pertaining to the shift of power from the UPA government to the BJP-led NDA government the deal was put on hold. After coming to power the NDA government in 2016 announced that 36 off the shelf Dassault twin engine fighter Rafales will be purchased from Dassault Aviation at the cost of Rs. 58,000 crore. As per the contract the Rafales were to be delivered by September, 2018.
After this announcement, a series of allegations and counter allegation started taking place as the Congress government accused the central government for not listing out the detailed cost of individual Rafales that had been purchased. Moreover Modi government’s decision to purchase only 36 Rafale and manufacture rest of the 108 Rafale by Reliance Aeronautical Limited became a serious point of contestation. Congress alleged the central government for making expensive purchases from the tax payer’s money in order to help Anil Ambani’s company with an offset contract with Dassault Aviation.
The Supreme Court of India intervened in the matter after a writ petition was filed by Shri. Manohar Lal Sharma who filed a petition seeking the details of the deal and after this petition three other petitions were filed seeking a detailed inquiry in the matter. The Supreme Court asked the central government to give a detailed list of pricing to the court .The Attorney General of challenged the Supreme Court order by saying that -“pricing of the deal cannot be listed under the Official Secrecy Act”.
After repeated petitions, on December 14th, the apex court gave a verdict which provided a safe ground to the Narendra Modi government. Thereafter a petition was filed against the Supreme Court verdict by four petitioners who challenged the basis of the Rafale Deal based on certain documents which were obtained by them in relation to the case( how the documents obtained is still not clear). While the government has argued that important documents related to the controversial Rafale deal have been stolen by public servants. The Court has presently been adjourned in this matter.
The government and the Opposition have been engaged in strong attacks since months and the Congress has tirelessly accused the PM of crony capitalism and corruption. On the other hand, during the on-going India-Pakistan tension, the PM insisted that if India has Rafale jets it would have given a better reply to Pakistan. The nation has seen enough of the politicization of the deal but now it asks for answers.