SC to hear Wednesday batch of petitions on Rafale fighter jet deal

The apex court's directions had come before the trio had filed the petition.

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The Supreme Court is slated to hear Wednesday a batch of petitions, including the joint plea filed by former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie along with activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, into the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, which had directed the Centre to provide in a sealed cover the "details of the steps" taken in the decision making process leading to the deal, has listed as many as four petitions for hearing tomorrow.

The apex court's directions had come before the trio had filed the petition.

The directions were passed on October 10 on the two PILs filed by lawyers M L Sharma and Vineet Dhanda.

The top court, however, had observed that the averments made in the two PILs were "grossly inadequate" and had said that it was not issuing the notice on them.

The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, had made clear that its direction to the Centre was issued to satisfy itself about legitimacy of the decision making process for procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets.

Later, two other petitions were filed by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan and AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh respectively against the deal.

Now as many as four PILs are pending adjudication before the top court against the deal.

Two former union ministers and Bhushan have sought registration of an FIR into the fighter jet deal between India and France alleging "criminal misconduct" by high public functionaries.

The trio has also sought a direction to CBI to investigate the offences mentioned in their complaint in a "time-bound" manner and submit periodic status reports to the apex court.

They have claimed that in 2007 tenders were issued by the Ministry of Defence for the purchase of 126 fighter aircraft and it was specified in the Request for Proposal that 18 of these aircraft would be purchased from abroad in a 'fly-away' condition. The remaining 108 were to be manufactured in India in the factory of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) with transfer of technology from the foreign vendor.

The plea said that Dassault Company manufacturing the Rafale aircraft was declared the lowest tenderer and thereafter price negotiations began which were at a very advanced stage by March 25, 2015.

"However within 15 days of this, the Prime Minister of India and the President of France announced a totally new deal jettisoning the virtually complete 126 aircraft deal and the Prime Minister on behalf of India agreed to purchase only 36 Rafale aircraft in a 'fly-away' condition without any transfer of technology and make in India.

"It later turned out that the new deal involved 50 per cent of the value of the contract to be given as 'offset contracts' to Indian companies and that the government informally told Dassault and the French government that the bulk of the offset contracts would have to be given to a company of Anil Ambani which had just been set up," it claimed.

The plea alleged that new deal gives undue benefit to Reliance Aerospace Limited (RAL) and the escalation of price of airplanes is to account for collateral considerations.

It has also sought direction to the Centre to cease and desist from influencing or intimidating in any way the officials that would investigate the offences mentioned in the complaint and not transfer the CBI officials tasked with investigation The AAP lawmaker, in his separate plea filed through lawyer Dheeraj Kumar Singh, has sought setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the supervision of the apex court to probe the Rafale deal.

He has sought that the SIT should probe the reasons for cancellation of earlier deal entered into by the UPA government for the purchase of 126 fighter jets.

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 the Indian Air Force equipment. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.  

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