"No Guarantee From France On Rafale But A Letter Of Comfort Issued": Govt To Supreme Court
On November 14, the Supreme Court heard the matter pertaining to the Rafale deal. The SC reserved its verdict on the petition seeking a court-monitored probe into the deal.
The Bench hearing the matter comprised of Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi and Justice SK Kaul said that the discussion on the cost of the whole deal need not be carried out at this moment, adding that this discussion would ensue only if the court decides that the price needs to come in the public domain. The Centre in its defence said that adversaries may take an advantage if intricate details of the deal are put out in public.
Petitioners argue about govt hiding facts, unfair selection of Reliance
As reported by The Quint, eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan, the petitioner, said that government was trying to “hide behind the secrecy agreement”. He further added, “How does the issue of price compromise national security? If I may point out, it was disclosed twice in Parliament formally.”
Bhushan also commented on the “undue advantage” given to Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence in the selection of the offset partner. He also questioned Dassault chief’s statement that Reliance was chosen because it owned land, saying that the said land was allotted only after the selection was made. Another Petitioner Arun Shourie questioned the “ill-experienced” Reliance’s selection by a Dassault which was formed in 1929.
The petitioners also said that the Rafale deal cannot be a government-to-government deal because no sovereign guarantee was provided by France. Instead, a letter of comfort was issued by France which insisted that India’s dispute resolution will be with the manufacturer and not with it.
Defending this, Amit Cowshish, former chief financial advisor (acquisition), said, “There is no standard format. India has bought arms earlier on the basis of a letter of comfort from Russia and other countries as well.” AG Venugopal while admitted that no sovereign guarantee was obtained and only a letter of comfort was issued, however, no rules were violated, as reported by Hindustan Times.
Bhushan asked for CBI to register FIR as per Lalita Kumari judgement.
“Want someone from IAF, not ministry”: CJI Gogoi
As the hearing commenced, noticing that none of the Indian Air Force representatives was present, CJI Gogoi said, “We want to meet someone from the Indian Air Force, not from the ministry. After all, we are dealing with the Air Force.
To this Attorney General, KK Venugopal said that they would appear some. Post lunch, two officials from IAF-Air Marshal Alok Khosla and Air Vice Marshal J Chalapathi appeared.
CJI Gogoi asked officials about the latest induction the forces, to which the officials replied that it was Sukhoi-30. “5th generation because it has stealth technology,” IAF official replied when asked about the generation of proposed Rafale aircraft, as reported by Livelaw.
“HAL wanted longer time slot”: AG Venugopal
Defending the government’s decision of choosing Reliance as the offset partner, AG said that HAL wanted 2.7 longer time slot than what Dassault was asking.
Speaking about the centre’s decision to maintain secrecy around the cost of the deal, AG said that it was due to the inter-governmental agreement and RTI act doesn’t apply to security-related matters.