SC commences hearing on pleas in Rafale case

SC commences hearing on pleas in Rafale case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday commenced its intense hearing on pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

A bench inclusive of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph is also likely to peruse the pricing details of the jets submitted by the government in a sealed cover.

During the hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing on behalf of himself, and former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, given that the NDA government “short-circuited” the acquisition process by taking the Inter-Government Agreement (IGA) route to avoid giving tender.

He commented that there was no sovereign guarantee from the French government in the deal. Bhushan argued that initially the Union Law Ministry had flagged the issue, but later gave in to the proposal of entering into the IGA.

The Air Force requires 126 fighter jets and had intimated the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) about it; he said referring to the process of defense acquisition.  At starting, six foreign companies had applied and two firms were shortlisted during the earlier process.

After that, the deal went to French firm Dassault and state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd was part of it. But, soon a statement was issued and it said there will be no technology transfer, and only 36 jets would be procured, the lawyer told the court.

Bhushan deposited that nobody knows about the alleged change in the deal done by the prime minister and even the defense minister was not aware of the change.

Advocates M L Sharma, Vineet Dhanda, and AAP MP Sanjay Singh, also boosted their arguments before Bhushan.  Sharma, who opened the argument, told the court that the IGA was “illegal” and sought an investigation into the matter.

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