New Delhi: The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce today its verdict on four petitions seeking court-monitored probe into the deal for acquiring 36 Rafale fighter jets in a ready-to-fly condition from French company Dassault Aviation. (Also read: SC Reserves Verdict on Bunch of Petitions Demanding Probe in Rafale Deal)
The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph had reserved the verdict on November 14.
The Centre had defended the deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets in a ready-to-fly condition while it admitted that there was “no sovereign guarantee from France (government), but there is a letter of comfort…”
Counsel for the petitioner Prashant Bhushan and former Union Minister Arun Shourie had questioned the circumventing of the procedure for aborting the earlier process for procuring 126 (18 in a ready-to-fly condition and 108 to be manufactured by HAL) fighter jets in favour of procuring 36 aircraft in ready-to-fly condition and removing HAL as an offset partner.
The four petitions seeking probe into the deal were filed by Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie, former Finance minister Yashwant Sinha, advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda, and AAP MP Sanjay Singh.
All the petitioners had assailed the pricing of 36 fighter aircraft and the induction of an offset partner replacing the HAL.
The Centre had defended the deal on the grounds of an “urgent requirement” for national security and had justified the scrapping of the earlier deal for 126 aircraft as it was taking too long to reach conclusion.
Earlier, the top court had said that any discussion of pricing of the jets could only take place if the facts on the deal were allowed to come in the public domain. “The decision we need to take is whether to bring the fact on pricing in public domain or not,” the bench said.
The bench told Attorney General KK Venugopal that without bringing the facts in public domain, there was no question of any debate on pricing. However, the bench clarified that any discussion on price would be considered if it thought that it should come in the public domain.