The Defence Procurement Procedure was “completely followed” in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and the deal was apparently approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the Centre informed the Supreme Court on Monday.
The Centre’s stand was reflected in a document given to the court, which had asked the government to furnish details and the steps taken in the decision-making process for the procurement of the jets. The major court directive on October 31 came after a group of petitioners approached it and sought the court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale jets. The document was also given over to the petitioners, comprising former BJP leaders and Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie.
The process as laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure-2013 has been followed in the procurement of the Rafale aircraft and the CCS on August 24, 2016, approved the agreement which came at after negotiations between the Indian and the French sides, said the 14-page document.
The document also commented that the Indian negotiating team was constituted which held negotiations with the French side for about a year and approval of the CCS, being the Competent Financial Authority, was taken before signing the Inter-Government Agreement.
The apex court had said explanation, comprising the steps in the decision making the process for the procurement of jets, which could “legitimately” be brought into the public domain, be made available to the parties who have filed petitions before it in the matter. It had also requested the Centre to place before it in a sealed cover within 10 days the pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France. Later, the Centre also deposited the price details of the fighter jets in a sealed cover to the court.
The apex court, which will hear the matter on November 14, had categorically explained the Centre that if the pricing detail was “exclusive” and could not be shared with the court then the Centre should file an affidavit in this regard and say so.
India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the enhancing process of the Indian Air Force equipment. The estimated cost of the deal is Rs 58,000 crore. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.
The petitions looking the probe in the Rafale deal were first filed by advocates Manohar Lal Sharma and Vineet Dhanda. Later, AAP MP Sanjay Singh had also filed the petition. Sinha, Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan had filed a joint petition.