'Rafale verdict brings to close vilification of India's military acquisition process'

SC refuses to review its earlier decision of giving a clean chit to government

[File] Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performing a puja on the first Rafale for the IAF | PTI [File] Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performing a puja on the first Rafale for the IAF | PTI

The Supreme Court's verdict on the Rafale deal has brought to a close an exercise of "vilification" of the military acquisition process that impacted the morale of the armed forces, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

Delivering its much-awaited ruling on the Rafale deal, the Supreme Court refused to review its earlier decision of giving a clean chit to the government while rejecting pleas for registration of an FIR by the CBI for alleged irregularities in the deal.

In its order on December 14, 2018, the apex court had said that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement relating to the Rafale jets.

"Today, the Supreme Court has categorically rejected the review petitions filed subsequently against the order on merits bringing to a close an exercise of vilification and casting doubts on the defence acquisition process which has an adverse impact on the morale of the security forces," the ministry said in a statement.

On pricing, the ministry said the court has upheld the position of the government that the price of the aircraft was lower than the deal negotiated previously.

There were lengthy negotiations between the UPA government and Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, on prices. The final negotiations continued till early 2014 but the deal could not go through.

The Congress raised several questions about the deal, including on rates of the aircraft, and alleged corruption but the government has rejected the charges. 

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets. The first batch of four Rafale jets will arrive in India by May 2020.

The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles. The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.

The first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.

The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.

According to the deal, the delivery of the jets was to be completed in 67 months from the date the contract was signed.