The Supreme Court today asked the Centre for pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France in a sealed cover within 10 days. The Supreme Court, however, agreed that “strategic and confidential” information need not be disclosed.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, gave some more freedom to the government which has been arguing that pricing details are so sensitive that they have not even been shared with Parliament.
But the court said that Centre must bring details of the decision-making process of the deal into the public domain, except those that are confidential and have strategic importance.
The bench posted the matter for the next hearing on November 14.
“If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so,” the bench told Attorney General K K Venugopal in its oral observations.
The court was hearing four petitions, including one by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who are seeking a court-monitored CBI investigation in the procurement of the fighter jets.
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“That you will have to wait,” the CJI said, adding, “Let CBI put its house in order first.”
The bench, also comprising Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph said the “core of information” that can be brought in the public domain should be shared with the “petitioner and petitioners in person”.
The bench, in its order, observed that none of the petitioners has questioned the suitability of the Rafale jets, their equipment and their utility to the Indian Air Force. “What has been questioned is bonafide of the decision making process and the price/cost at which the same is to be procured,” the bench said.
The bench also noted that following its October 10 order the government has placed before it a note giving details of the steps taken in the decision-making process leading to the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.