Government refuses to make Rafale pricing public

Updated: Nov 15, 2018, 10:28 IST | Agencies

Attorney General K K Venugopal defended the secrecy clause, adding that a leak would jeopardise his office

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan with former union minister Arun Shourie leave the Supreme Court after the Rafale hearing. Pic/PTI
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan with former union minister Arun Shourie leave the Supreme Court after the Rafale hearing. Pic/PTI

The government on Wednesday refused to make public details related to the pricing of the 36 Rafale fighter jets in the Supreme Court, saying "our adversaries may get an advantage" by such a public disclosure. Two days after the government submitted to the Apex Court details of pricing of the Rafale deal, Attorney General K K Venugopal defended the secrecy clause related to the pricing of jets before a three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

To the government's submission, the bench, which also comprised justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said any discussion on pricing of the Rafale fighter jets can only take place if the facts on the deal are allowed to come in the public domain.

"The decision we need to take is whether to bring the fact on pricing in public domain or not," said the bench. Asserting that the decision on types of aircraft and weapons that need to be bought was a matter for experts and not an issue to be adjudicated upon by the judiciary. Even Parliament has not been told about the complete cost of jets," Venugopal said.

Responding to allegations by Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners, that there was no sovereign guarantee by France for the deal, the attorney general admitted that there is no sovereign guarantee, but asserted that there is a letter of comfort by France which would be as good as a governmental guarantee.

Venugopal also submitted that in the earlier contract (during UPA government), the jets were not to be loaded with requisite weapons system and the reservation of the government was due to the fact that it did not want to violate the clause of the Inter Government Agreement and secrecy. Venugopal said that at the exchange rate of November 2016, the cost of a bare fighter jet was R670 crore and the estimated cost of the deal is Rs 58,000 crore.

Not a govt-to-govt deal: Congress
The Congress claimed on Wednesday that the Rafale deal is not a "government-to-government" pact with France and the Centre should not have signed a contract with Dassault after it turned "non-compliant" by not giving assurances on aircraft quality and on man-hours required for the jet's manufacturing. Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal claimed that such a deal has only been done earlier in the United States under the Foreign Military Sales route (FMS).

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