New Delhi: Narendra Modi led central government has been given a clean chit by the Supreme Court in the Rafale Deal on Friday.
A bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph, and headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, said “We are satisfied that there is no occasion to really doubt the process, and even if minor deviations have occurred, that would not result in either setting aside the contract or requiring a detailed scrutiny by the court.”
The bench also held that “broadly the processes have been followed” and that India cannot remain unprepared in skies when its adversaries have acquired the most modern fighter planes.
“Our country cannot afford to be unprepared/underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only 4th generation, but even 5th generation aircraft, of which, we have none,” added the bench.
The bench dismissed the arguments of petitioners regarding the reason behind purchasing only 36 air crafts on contrary to the previous deal which was for 126 air crafts.
“We cannot sit in judgment over the wisdom of deciding to go in for purchase of 36 aircraft in place of 126. We cannot possibly compel the government to go in for purchase of 126 aircraft. This is despite the fact that even before the withdrawal of RFP (request for proposal), an announcement came to be made in April 2015 about the decision to go in only for 36 aircraft,” said the court.
Referring to the Defence Procurement Procedure, the court stated that the bench need not interfere into technical areas, especially on the basis of statements by the press. It also dismissed allegations of commercial favouritism by the government in favour of Reliance Defence as the offset partner.
The bench said, “We do not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian government, as the option to choose the IOP (Indian Offset Partner) does not rest with the Indian government.”
The bench also expressed its satisfaction over the pricing details, after examining the details given to the court by the central government in a sealed envelope.
“It is certainly not the job of this court to carry out a comparison of the pricing details in matters like the present. We say no more as the material has to be kept in a confidential domain,” said the court.
The apex court’s decision has come as a major boost to Modi government ahead of the 2019 election.
Supreme Court lawyers ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh, and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie were among the petitioners in the case.