The Supreme Court of India has found no irregularities in the government’s decision making process to procure the 36 Rafale jets from Dassault under the Indo-French intergovernmental agreement.
The court also observed that it is not its job to go into pricing when the need and quality of aircraft is not in doubt. Further the court also said it did not find anything wrong in the selection of the Indian offset partners by Dassault. All the pleas have been dismissed. The court also said that no further review is required, while also adding that no probe is required into the pricing aspect or decision making process for the purchase of the aircraft.
The court added that it did not find any instances of commercial favouritism. There is no occasion to doubt the decision making process in procurement of the aircraft. Minor variations in clauses should not amount to the setting aside of the contract, the Bench also said.
The Bench also observed that a country cannot be underprepared. It is not right for a court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinise all aspects. The perception of individuals cannot be the basis of roving inquiry in sensitive issues such as defence procurements.
The Bench also said that it cannot compel a government to purchase 126 aircraft and it is not proper for the court to examine each aspect of this case. It is not the job of the court to compare pricing details, the Bench also said.
The court said that the personal perception of the people on the deal matters little. However the judiciary has constrained jurisdiction in examining defence deals of this nature especially when adversaries have inducted 4th and 5th generation fighters compared to none by India.
On the offset partner the Bench said that it is up to the vendor and not the central government to decide on the same. It is not for the court to step into what is appropriate. Mere press interviews cannot be the basis of the same. There is no commercial favouritism and hence there is no need to intervene.
It is our considered view that in matters of contract there cannot be any uniform view of judicial review.
Scrutiny will have to be made keeping national security in mind. Our country cannot be allowed to be underprepared. It will not be correct for this court to sit and decide on the correctness. It was only after the statement made by former president of France, Fancois Hollande that the petitions were filed, the Bench also said.
The verdict was delivered by a Bench comprising Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.
A petition was filed in which information was sought about the contract given to Reliance by Dassault. The petitioners alleged discrepancies in the fighter jet deal with France. Further a stay on the deal was also sought.
The petitioner claimed in his plea that the inter-government agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets must be quashed as it was an “outcome of corruption” and not ratified by Parliament under Article 253 (Parliament has power to make any law for implementing any inter-government agreement) of the Constitution.
India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of 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.