In an interesting development in the Rafale case, the Supreme court has said that “No question of a debate on pricing of Rafale deal in court till it comes to the conclusion that the pricing information is to be brought in the public domain”. The government has already submitted the pricing details of Rafale deal in a sealed document and told the court that this is classified information.
The bench comprising chief justice Rajan Gogoi, Justic SK Paul and KM Joseph is hearing the petition filed by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan on behalf of himself and two former BJP leaders Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha. Prashant Bhushan is leading the case in the apex court on petitioner’s front and Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal is representing the government.
The Supreme court also asked whether any air force official is present in the court as the matter is of the Indian Air Force. Lawyer-activist, Prashant Bhushan has accused that the price of current Rafale jets is 40 percent higher than the previously decided price and that government is hiding behind the secrecy clause to not disclose the actual price of the deal. The government has purchased 36 Rafale jets for 59,000 crore and all the stakeholders involved in it have claimed that the deal has been fair and transparent.
Many independent defense analysts like Abhijit Iyer Mitra have claimed that NDA government’s deal was 9 percent cheaper than the UPA deal. The defense ministry has also claimed the same. In an interview with ANI, CEO of Dassault Aviation, Eric Trappier confirmed the claim made by government and independent analysts over the first issue that the rate at which NDA government bought Rafale is 9 percent cheaper than what was agreed by the UPA government. “Price of 36 was exactly the same when you compare with 18 flyaway. 36 is double of 18, so as far I was concerned, it should have been double of the price. But because it was government to government, there was some negotiation, I had to decrease price by 9 percent. The price of Rafale in flyaway condition is less expensive in the 36 contract than the 126 contract,” said Eric Trappier.
Prashant Bhushan and opposition leader Rahul Gandhi have alleged that price per aircraft was 155 million Euros in the previous deal and now, it is 270 million Euros. The price quoted by the opposition was the price of hardware of fighter aircraft without weapons and India specific equipment. Even after adding the price of the add ons, the price of current aircraft’s is 9 percent lower than the previous agreement. So the opposition either intentionally quoted the price of basic hardware wrong or they are ignorant about the fact that fighter aircrafts need weapons and other add ons, in addition to the basic hardware i.e, the fighter jet.
The audit for Rafale deal is yet to take place and the CAG will decide whether it was transparent and profitable or not. The government has already submitted relevant documents to Supreme Court of India for cross-verification of the deal. The documents of the deal are in the hands of the Supreme court of the country as well as CAG, the most powerful body to check corruption in any deal. But Congress led opposition and its cronies in the media are spreading lies about the deal. Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shorie became defense experts overnight to accuse Modi government of corruption. This selective opposition disregards all the facts presented by defense ministry, credible defense experts, French government and the Dassault itself. If the apex court and CAG will give clean chit to government on the Rafale deal, they will accuse the court of being corrupt like they did when PM Modi got a clean chit in Gujarat riots case. These activists, opposition and media will also criticize CAG if they found no ‘scam’ in the deal, just as easily as they blamed the institution when it exposed the corruption of UPA government in Coal and 2G scams.