Case Description

The Supreme Court is deciding whether to review its 2018 judgment. In its judgment, it chose not to order a court monitored investigation of the Rafale Fighter Jet Deal, where the Central government purchased 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets.

Background

On 14th December 2018, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment:

 

Multiple petitioners -- advocate ML Sharma, lawyer Vineet Dhanda, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and politician Yashwant Sinha -- claimed that the Rafale Fighter Jet Deal suffers from serious procedural irregularities. They brought forward the following concerns:

  • Did Prime Minister Modi make a decision to go ahead with the deal without the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security?
  • Was Reliance Defence made Dassault Aviation's Indian Offset Partner without the approval of Minister of Defence, as required by the Defence Offset Guidelines?
  • Was Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Dassault's previously proposed Indian partner, improperly removed from the deal? HAL has over 60 years of experience in air-craft manufacturing. Reliance Defence has none.
  • Is the deal in fact an inter-governmental deal between India and France? And if it is, does this allow the Central government to forego discolsing the details of the deal, in violation of the Comptoller and Auditor General's (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act?

 

The Central government claims it signed an inter-governmental agreement in September 2016 with France. The Central government procured 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets for an undefined price, which allegedly is much higher than the price at which the UPA government had procured the jets.

 

On 14th November 2018, the Court reserved judgment. One month later on 14th December, the Court dismissed the plea for a court monitored probe observing that it found no irregularity in decision making, pricing and selection of off-set partners. Recall that the court had reached its decision on the basis of sealed envelope evidence adduced by the State.

 

On 21st Feburary 2019, the Court agreed to hear a review petition challenging the judgment, filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushanwhere. They alleged that the judgment rested on incorrect factual claims made by the government.

 

14th March 2019, the Court reserved order on the review petitions with regards to the limited question of whether leaked documents could be placed on the record. On 10th April 2019, the Court decided that the documents could be placed on the record, dismissing the Union's objection.

Issues

1. Did the Central Government follow proper procedure, given that it went from purchasing 126 jets to only 36 jets?

2. Does the Rafale Fighter Jet Deal suffer from pricing irregularities, considering that the per unit cost of the new deal is higher than what was earlier negotiated under the UPA government?

3. Did the Central Government propose Reliance Defence Ltd as Dassault Aviation's Indian Offset Partner without the approval of the Minister of Defence, as required by Clause 8.6 of the Defence Offset Guidelines?

4. Is the Rafale Fighter Jet Deal an inter-governmental agreement between India and France?

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