SC seeks pricing & offset partner details on Rafale
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre for pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France in a sealed cover within ten days, but agreed that "strategic and confidential" information need not be disclosed.
In its order, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi gave some more leeway to the government which has been arguing that pricing details are so sensitive that they have not even been shared with Parliament.
The apex court said the Centre must bring details of the decision-making process of the deal in the public domain, except those that are confidential and have strategic importance.
The government must share the information within ten days, and the petitioners could respond to it in the next seven days, the bench said and posted the matter for November 14.
"If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so," the bench told Attorney General K K Venugopal in its oral observations.
The top court was hearing four petitions, including one by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who are seeking a court-monitored CBI investigation in the procurement of the fighter jets.
"That you will have to wait," the CJI said, adding, "Let CBI put its house in order first."
The attorney general had expressed reservations about disclosing the details of pricing of the jets and said its cost was not even disclosed in Parliament.
The bench, also comprising Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph said the "core of information" that can be brought in the public domain should be shared with the "petitioner and petitioners in person".
In its order, the bench observed that none of the petitioners had questioned the suitability of the Rafale jets, their equipment and their utility to the Indian Air Force.
"What has been questioned is bonafide of the decision making process and the price/cost at which the same is to be procured," the bench said.
It also noted that following its October 10 order, the government has placed before it a note giving details of the steps taken in the decision-making process leading to the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
In August 2007, the Indian Air Force advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.
The two former union ministers and Bhushan have sought registration of an FIR and have alleged "criminal misconduct" by high public functionaries.