New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to place before it in a sealed cover within 10 days the pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi also said that details, including the steps in the decision making process for the procurement of jets, which could “legitimately” be brought into public domain, be made available to the parties who have filed petitions before it in the matter.
After the court dictated the order, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench that pricing details of these jets were not even shared with Parliament.
The bench, which also comprised Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, told the Attorney General that if the pricing detail was “exclusive” and it could not be shared with the court then the Centre should file an affidavit in this regard and say so.
“If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so,” the bench told Venugopal in its oral observations.
The bench made it clear that at this stage, details which might be considered to be “strategic and confidential” by the government be placed before the court and might not be given to the advocates appearing for the petitioners.
The Congress took a potshot at the Narendra Modi government saying that the top court’s order has sought to pierce the “veil of secrecy” that the Centre is trying to “hide” behind, and asked why it was scared to reveal the details of the fighter jet deal.
The opposition party also slammed the Modi government, saying its “boat of corruption” will no longer sail.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari reiterated the party’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the Rafale deal.
In its order, the bench made it clear that at this stage, details which might be considered to be “strategic and confidential” by the government be placed before the court and might not be given to the advocates appearing for the petitioners.
The court noted in its order that pursuant to its October 10 direction, the government has placed before it in a sealed cover a note giving the “details of the steps in the decision making process leading to the award of 36 Rafale jet-fighters/fighter aircrafts”.
“At this stage, we would not like to record any finding or views with regard to the contents of the said report. Rather, we are of the opinion that such of the core information conveyed to the court in the aforesaid confidential report which can legitimately be brought into the public domain be made available to the counsels for the petitioners in all the cases, as well as, the petitioners-in-person,” the bench said.
It said further details that could legitimately come in public domain with regard to induction of Indian offset partner, if any, be also furnished to the petitioners.
The bench said that necessary details be communicated to the advocates for the parties before it and the petitioners-in-person.
It also said that “the rest of the details in terms of the present order be submitted to the court in a sealed cover in the next ten days. The parties may file their response to the information that would be conveyed”.
The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on November 14.
During the brief hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, who along with former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha has filed a petition in the matter, said they were seeking a court-monitored CBI probe into the Rafale jets deal.
“That you will have to wait,” the CJI said, adding, “Let CBI put its house in order first.”
(With PTI inputs)