New Delhi [India], Nov 14 (ANI): The Supreme Court was on Wednesday informed by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan that the decision making process for acquisition of 36 Rafale aircrafts and the consequent increase in price and grant of offsets to Reliance was “not bonafide” and “requires investigation by the CBI.”
In a written submission to the apex court on the documents submitted by the Centre to the petitioners, who have filed the pleas seeking court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal, the former ministers and Bhushan said that the CBI investigation was required for cognizable offenses committed by high ranking public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“In a malafide manner HAL was dropped as the Production Agent for Dassault Aviation in India under the 126 procurement procedure and a few days old Reliance group of company which had no experience in the defense sector, was given the offset contracts amounting to thousands of crore of rupees,” Bhushan said.
Earlier, there was talk with France’s Dassault Aviation, the makers of the Rafale, for procuring 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). Later, it was decided to procure only 36 Rafale fighter jets against the original proposal of 126 aircraft.
Bhushan told the court that the facts and statements of the then French President Hollande showed that Reliance was proposed as an offset partner to the French by the “Indian side” as part of a “new formula” of the Indian government when the new deal was announced on April 10, 2015.
“The French have been reported to have had “no say” in the selection of the offset partner. Officials of Dassault have reportedly stated that Reliance was “imperative and obligatory” as part of the new deal. The joint venture agreement between Dassault and Reliance Aerostructure Limited was made in April of 2015 itself as per the press release from Dassault Aviation Land…the JV was applied for and granted to Reliance in June of 2015 in a record time. The said JV was formally announced within days of the signing of the main procurement contract and the concurrent offset contract on September 23, 2016,” the written submissions submitted by the former ministers and Bhushan added.
The written submission further stated that details of pricing have not been made available to the petitioners by the government.
The government has repeatedly stated that the new deal for 36 aircraft had many new ‘India Specific Enhancements’ and additions that were not present in the old procurement process for 126 aircraft to justify the huge escalation in the price of procurement of the 36 aircraft, the documents stated.
Relying on media reports, Bhushan said that after studying the RFP issued in 2007, it was reported that the specifications of the aircrafts are the same as in the earlier procurement and that the price per unit of the aircrafts has increased from Euro 155 million per aircraft to Euro 217 million per aircraft in the new deal despite that. “This is an escalation of about 40 per cent in the price against the public interest,” the written submissions added.
The written submissions added that as regards the increase in price the media report states, “The price per Rafale aircraft that the government agreed in 2016 with French company Dassault for 36 fighters is 40 per cent higher than what Dassault had offered in 2012, in a global tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA).”
On October 31, the government contended before the Supreme Court that details of the pricing cannot be brought in the public domain on account of the secrecy agreement between India and France of 2008. However, the secrecy agreement notes that information would be subject to the national laws of the two countries, Bhushan said.
“President Macron of France had earlier stated that it was up to the government of India to decide if it wanted to make available the details as regards pricing. In light of the same, the details of pricing should be made available to the public at large. In fact, as shown in the petition, details of pricing have been revealed by the Government of India in Parliament.”
“On November 18, 2016, in response to a question asked in the Lok Sabha on the acquisition of fighter aircrafts, the MoS, Defence, stated that, “Inter-Governmental Agreement with the government of the French Republic has been signed on September 23, 2016 for purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft along with requisite equipment, services, and weapons. Cost of each Rafale aircraft is approximately Rs 670 crore and all the aircraft will be delivered by April 2022.” Dassault Aviation and Reliance group of companies revealed the price as about Rs 1,660 crore per aircraft in their joint press release. The issue is as regards the discrepancy in the stated prices which needs clarification,” stated the written submissions.
In their written submissions, they have further stated that the decision-making process on Rafale deal submitted in the top court was “arbitrary” and “violative of the Defence Procurement Procedure” (DPP).
“Defence Procurement Procedure, 2013 on which reliance has been placed to show that the procurement for the 36 Rafale aircrafts could have been proceeded with under an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA), curiously, is not quoted in its entirety and omits the three specific pre-conditions/cases under which a procurement may be carried out through the IGA route as opposed to the competitive route under that provision. As none of the three pre-conditions existed in the new Rafale deal for 36 aircraft, the failure to quote the necessary pre-conditions that are mentioned in paragraph 71 itself is designed to mislead the court.”
The former ministers and Bhushan said Indian Air Force (IAF) had given their requirement for 126 aircraft for which the deal was near completion, but the note submitted by the Centre gave no reason why only 36 aircraft were procured.
“It defies logic and reason as to why given that the IAF’s requirement was for 126 aircraft was that deal summarily jettisoned and only 36 aircraft were procured all in a flyaway condition from France with no Make in India by HAL and Transfer of Technology. Nowhere does the (Centre’s) note mention as to who determined that the number of aircraft to be procured would arbitrarily be lopped down to 36 severely compromising the countries National Security? Nowhere does the note mention that the IAF asked for just 36 aircraft,” submitted Bhushan.
He added: “The note is conspicuously silent on when, how, and by whom this number was arbitrarily arrived at. It is absolutely bizarre that the government has now again initiated a new RFP for the procurement of 110 odd aircrafts in 2018 for which the same vendors have again participated and which process has brought the country back to square one and pushed back the IAF’s requirements to maintain the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons by at least another decade.”
The former ministers and advocate Bhushan have filed their written submissions on the documents given by the Central government to petitioners challenging the procurement deal of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. (ANI)
This is published unedited from the ANI feed.