Congress on back foot after SC clean chit on Rafale deal

The Supreme Court ruled that it found no evidence of wrongdoing in the government’s decision-making process, as it rejected petitions for an investigation into the Rafale deal.

The timing of the judgement is also significant politically, as it comes amid the winter session of parliament.

The apex court rejected a batch of petitions for a probe into India’s purchase of 36 French-made Rafale fighter jets, saying it found no evidence of wrongdoing in the government’s decision-making process or in the choice of Reliance Infrastructure Ltd as the Indian partner and refused to go into pricing details.

The political exchanges resonated in Parliament, with the House being adjourned for the day over protests on the issue.

The court ruled that “perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters”.

Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph were the other members of the three-judge bench that was hearing the four petitions seeking a stay on the ₹59,000 crore Rafale deal, signed between India and France in 2016.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s decision to buy 36 jets off the shelf in a government-to-government agreement in April 2015, cancelling the United Progressive Alliance government’s 2012 decision to buy 18 Rafale jets in a fly-away condition and manufacture 108 in India.

The delivery of the jets is slated to begin in September 2019.

The court refrained from ruling on the pricing aspect of the fighter jets—a central argument of the Congress is that the successor deal is much more expensive. “It is certainly not the job of this court to carry out a comparison of the pricing details in matters like the present,” it held.

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