New Delhi: Under pressure from the Supreme Court, the Narendra Modi government on Monday submitted details to the court of the price negotiation for 36 Rafale fighter jets it bought from France’s Dassault Aviation at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The government also gave the timeline of the one-year-long negotiations that preceded the formalisation of the deal.
This information, which the government had not shared even in Parliament till now despite being under severe pressure from the Opposition, was submitted in a sealed envelop. The 14-page document, titled “Details of the steps in the decision making process leading to the award of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft order”, stated that the process as laid down in the defence procurement procedure-2013 — when the Congress-led UPA was in power — was followed in procurement of the Rafale aircraft.
The government also handed over a redacted version of the report to petitioners who want a court-monitored CBI probe into the controversial deal.
The case will be heard next on Wednesday.
The document states that an Indian team negotiated with the French side for about a year and approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), being the competent financial authority, was taken before signing the inter-government agreement. After the Indian negotiation team submitted its report on fully-loaded Rafale jets on August 4, 2016, it was vetted by the finance and law ministries within 20 days and the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the deal on August 24, said the government.
The Modi government has been facing Opposition attacks over the Rafale fighter jet deal. The Congress had claimed that the Rafale deal finalised by the Modi government caused a loss of Rs 12,632 crore to the country. Citing figures from the annual report of Dassault Aviation, the party said that the French company had sold each jet to India for Rs 1,670.7 crore in 2016, while it had sold the same jets to Qatar and Egypt for Rs 1,319.8 crore in 2015. The Opposition party also said that the Modi government could have saved Rs 41,212 crore had it not cancelled the deal the UPA dispensation had signed for 126 Rafale jets. Opposition parties have been questioning the Modi government on how Rafale manufacturer Dassault chose companies in Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group to partner within India. As part of the deal, Dassault has under an obligation to invest half the value of the deal — about Rs 30,000 crore — in Indian firms. Reliance was chosen as one of the “offset” partners of Dassault. The Opposition has alleged that Reliance was chosen in a process that lacked transparency. Dassault has said it was under no pressure to select Reliance as its partner for a huge joint venture in Nagpur that will manufacture parts for fighter planes. The offset arrangement does not involve the 36 jets that are part of the current deal.
The government said that it had no role in the selection of the Indian offset partner. The court on October 31 had asked the Centre to place before it within 10 days the pricing details of 36 Rafale fighter jets while hearing a bunch of petitions, including those filed by former BJP leaders and Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie.
On Monday, the document on the decision-making process related to the deal was also given to the petitioners.
The apex court had earlier sought details, including steps in the decision making process for the procurement of jets, which could “legitimately” be brought into public domain.