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SC makes it clear

SC makes it clear

After a month of carefully examining the particulars of the highly contentious Rafale deal, the Supreme Court announced its verdict in favour of the Union government yesterday, citing how it didn't have good reason to doubt the decision-making process in the multi-billion dollar deal. BJP's elation at the decision was inevitable. The verdict follows the reserved judgement of November 14, which preceded a batch of pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the deal. A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, read out the judgement which emphasises that it is not the job of the court to deal with the comparative details of pricing and, further, no substantial evidence has been found to interfere with the issues of procurement, pricing and offset partnership. The court was convinced with the clarification that was given by both the sides involved over all aspects of procurement. It elaborated that whether the number of jets was 36 or 126 was a subject matter of the government and cannot be compelled upon by the court. The apex court had requested two senior IAF officials to answer questions regarding the jets, stressing on how the government's decision to procure them was supported by the fact that India needs induction of 4th and 5th generation fighter jets, such as Rafale, since no new jets have been inducted in the IAF since 1985. It is acceptable that the induction was mandatory to keep up with the quality requirements of our country's defence. "We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process. A country cannot afford to be underprepared. It is not correct for the court to sit as an appellant authority and scrutinise all aspects," Gogoi said, emphasising the government's autonomy over aspects of national interest. Somehow, the convincing tale of corruption by the BJP government has found a new climax. Rahul Gandhi-led Congress, accusing the Narendra Modi government of crony capitalism, had cited irregularities in the 36-jet deal with Dassault Aviation of France. Highlighting the procurement price and the choice of offset partner as Anil Ambani's inexperienced Reliance defence, allegations were further strengthened by the government's refusal to make the details of the deal public. However, in a sealed letter, the details were provided to the court which helped in its examination of the deal.

"We don't find any material to show that it's commercial favouritism" the apex court pronounced, dismissing the criticism regarding Reliance Defence's acquisition of the deal through government aid. Anil Ambani was quick to welcome the judgement which clears his and his company's name in the controversial matter. He stressed how his company remained committed to India's national security and established complete falsity in this "baseless and politically motivated allegation". More responses on the judgement hailed the decision and condemned Rahul Gandhi and Congress for its petty politics. Home minister Rajnath Singh said, "Congress President Rahul Gandhi tried to mislead people on Rafale deal for political benefit and maligned India's image globally. He should apologise to the people of the country". Amit Shah addressed a conference at BJP HQ where he opined that, "Rahul Gandhi should come clean on his source of information, based on which he and his party levelled such baseless allegations" – targetting Rahul Gandhi head-on for his alleged theatrics in the run-up to the elections to mislead people. On the defensive front, Shashi Tharoor elaborated that his party is looking for inspection on financial intricacy saying, "We are looking at inspection of accounts and negotiations conducted in the Rafale deal. The Supreme Court didn't consider that their business to do it" and, therefore, "We will continue to push for the joint parliamentary committee. The BJP also asked for JPC despite verdict on 2G". The court's order changes nothing for the Congress, who remain confident that this contentious issue is worth chasing. From a general perspective, the court's order to protect the details of the deal is justified. However, it is not every day that demands are made to disclose details of a sacrosanct deal and the court could've done more to satiate public curiosity. The Supreme Court, however, cannot be criticised for its judgement since there was no evidence for the court to entertain the levelled allegations and, hence, it has been dismissed. Moving on, Congress's push for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) should reap evidence to support the bold allegation, otherwise, it will subject itself to extensive criticism, that too in the face of general elections. Despite this momentary clarity, the Rafale chapter is far from over. Its ghost will continue to haunt the ruling party, particularly in light of the joint parliamentary committee coming into aggressive picture.

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