Apex Court on Rafale deal

The Supreme Court has practically demolished the Congress case for a judicial probe into the Rafale deal. It has held that there was no irregularity in the decision making process, that the price and other details about the aircraft are confidential and cannot be made public and no benefits accrued to any private party in concluding the deal. The Congress, however, is still demanding an inquiry by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.  It holds that the apex court is not the forum to decide on such ‘sensitive’ defence contracts. A JPC probe alone can go into the corruption in the Rafale deal and expose “every later of corruption” in the deal which, it alleges, was “guided by the highest echelons of power.”
If this is the stand of the Congress it should not have gone to the Supreme Court in the first place. It now alleges that the Government gave “one-sided half-baked information” to the court which “has not been scrutinized by anyone”. This is a weak defence. How does the Congress know that the information shared by the Government with the apex court was half-baked and one-sided?  The Government obviously did not share with the opposition party the information it gave to the court. Nor did the Congress present the court with the facts revealed in the French media, like the claim that the French Government was given no option but to choose a particular Indian private partner for Dassault Aviation, the manufacturers of the Rafale aircraft.
The Congress’ insistence on a JPC probe looks like a desperate attempt to save face. The party should have carefully and diligently marshalled the facts and figures in support of its allegation that there was corruption in the purchase of the aircraft. The Congress contention was that the Prime Minister had bypassed the procedure for acquiring defence hardware and taken the decision on Rafale entirely on its own. This charge has been rejected by the court. The Congress also failed to establish that there was a sub rosa deal between the Centre and a private company whose owner was a friend of the Prime Minister and that dropping the HAL was irrational and unjustified. If the Congress was so sure of its facts then these should have been submitted to the court. There are many unanswered questions about the Rafale deal and perhaps it merits a parliamentary probe. But the Congress failed to make out a strong case in the highest court of the land.

Monday, 17 December, 2018