Case Description

In 2018, the court decided not to order a court monitored investigation of the Union government's purchase of Rafale fighter jets. The judgment is currently under review.

Background

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

 

Multiple petitioners -- advocate ML Sharma, lawyer Vineet Dhanda, AAP MP Sanjay Singh and politician Yashwant Sinha -- had 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? Further, was Hindustan Aeronautic Limited (HAL), the previously proposed Offset partner, improperly removed?
  • 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 disclosing the details of the deal, in violation of the Comptroller and Auditor General's (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Service) Act?

 

The Central government has claimed 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 14 November 2018, the court reserved judgment. One month later on 14 December, the court dismissed the plea for a court monitored investigation. The court observed that it found no irregularity in the decision making process, pricing or selection of an off-set partner. The court reached its conclusion on the basis of evidence produced by the State in sealed covers.

 

On 21 Feburary 2019, the court agreed to hear a review petition challenging the judgment, filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan. These review petitioners allege that the judgment rests on incorrect factual claims made by the government.

 

14 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 10 April 2019, the court held that the classified documents could be placed on the record, dismissing the Union's objection.

 

On 10 May 2019, the court reserved judgment in the review petitions.

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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