The Supreme Court Wednesday directed the government to furnish in a sealed cover, within ten days, details of the pricing of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft being purchased from France. The information is classified, the government said, after which the court asked for a written submission that the details cannot be shared. In the last hearing earlier this month, the court had asked for a lowdown on the decision-making process but had emphasized that it would not get into “pricing or suitability” of the jets.
However, it was not suitability of the jets but the “bonafide of the decision-making and price” that had been questioned, the court said today. The government must put out its decision-making process in the public domain, the court said, asking also for details of how Rafale manufacturer Dassault chose companies in Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group to partner within India. In exchange for landing the contract for the 36 off-the-shelf fighter jets, Dassault has to invest half the value of the deal – about 30,000 crores – in Indian firms.
Reliance has been chosen as one of those “offset” partners. “Strategic and confidential” information need not be disclosed, agreed the court, which is likely to take a call next on what is classified and what not. “If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so,” said Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. The government’s lawyer, KK Venugopal, had argued that pricing was not revealed in parliament and the previous Congress government had also not given details of a previous deal.