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Centre files Rafale deal decision-making papers in SC

Centre files Rafale deal decision-making papers in SC
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Supreme Court had earlier asked the Centre to file all papers detailing the decision making process on the Rafale Deal with Dassault Aviation

The Centre has filed, in a sealed cover, papers detailing the process that led to the controversial Rafale deal in which the sudden decision of Dassault Aviation to partner with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence and excluding state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has kicked up deafening protests by the Congress-led Opposition.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had, on October 10, admitted a bunch of petitions that sought its directions to the Centre to reveal the entire process that led to the award of the Rafale deal to Dassault Aviation and how HAL was excluded at the last minute from the negotiations, ostensibly to favour Ambani’s company.

While Attorney General KK Venugopal had told the bench that the documents were part of classified information that even he would have no access to, the Chief Justice had said that the court wanted to satisfy its conscience on the matter and was inclined to seek details of the decision-making process from the Centre. The Court had, however, clarified that it would not go into other technical details of the deal and into issues related to pricing of the Rafale jets that was finally agreed upon by India, France and Dassault Aviation.

According to a report by news agency ANI, the Centre, on Saturday (October 27), submitted the relevant documents sought by the top court to the Secretary General of the Supreme Court, Ravindra Maithani, in a sealed cover.

The petitions challenging the Rafale deal, filed by advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, are scheduled to come up for hearing in the apex court on October 29.

During the last hearing in the case, petitioner ML Sharma had submitted before the bench that he has challenged the inter-governmental agreement between India and France on the grounds that the Rafale deal should be quashed under Articles 49 (inducing a State to conclude a treaty by fraudulent conduct on behalf of another negotiating State) and 51 (State’s consent to be bound by a treaty procured by coercion of its representative) of the Vienna Convention.

“I have filed a document that discloses the actual value of the jet to be 71 million Euro as per the Parliament of France. As per the annual report submitted by Dassault Rafale (French Armament firm) to the government, which is also available internationally, the supply to India was to be made for over 206 million Euro.… Dassault approached Anil Ambani who approached the Respondent 1 here (Prime Minister Modi), whose name I shall not take. Subsequently, the Request For Proposal (RFP) was withdrawn…  The PM had cited the price for one fighter jet as Rs. 1700 crores, while Kuwait has purchased the same from Dassault for Rs. 700 crores…” Sharma had said.

The PIL filed by lawyer Vineet Dhanda has sought a direction to the Centre to reveal details of the deal and the comparative prices during the UPA and NDA rule in a sealed cover to the apex court. The petition also requests for information about the contract given to Reliance by Dassault.

A plea was earlier filed in the apex court in March this year by Congress worker Tehseen Poonawalla, seeking an independent probe into the Rafale deal and disclosure of the cost involved in the deal before Parliament. However, Poonawalla has now sought to withdraw his plea.

Attorney General Venugopal had opposed both petitions on grounds that they were filed purely for political gains. Chief Justice Gogoi had remarked: “Suppose we ask for the details of the decision-making process in sealed cover, how would you react? It shall only be for perusal by the judges, without touching on the technological parameters or the suitability in terms of the national events?

                                                                                               -India Legal Bureau

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