From references to the Kargil War to hard questions on the Defence Procurement Policy and asking for senior Indian Air Force officers to appear before in court, the four-hour Supreme Court hearing Tuesday on petitions seeking a court-monitored probe in the Rafale deal saw sharp exchanges between the bench, petitioners and Attorney General K K Venugopal.
Concluding his submissions while defending the Rafale deal, Venugopal said that he was told that many of the lives lost in the Kargil War was because the enemy was on top of hills at an advantageous position. “If we had the Rafale, we could have targeted from 60 kms away,” he told the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, which also comprised Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.
CJI Gogoi was quick to interject. “When was the Kargil war – 1999? Rafale came much later. No, Mr Attorney, I don’t think we could have used Rafale in the Kargil war”, said the CJI.
Earlier, after the AG said that Dassault is yet to provide details of its offset partner, Justice Joseph, referring to the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP), asked if the Centre was not required to know about the offset partners.
Venugopal replied that some amendments were made to the rules in 2015 by way of which the onus was on the vendor to intimate the government about the IOP. He said that the as per the Offset Contract, the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) was required to confirm the details of Indian Offset Partners “either at the time of seeking offset credits or one year prior to discharge of offset obligation”. In the case of the Rafale jets, the “annual offset implementation schedule, as per offset contract, will commence from October 2019”.
Justice Joseph then asked, “what was the need to change the policy when it was working in a particular way?” Venugopal replied that a committee had pointed out some difficulties in it and recommended “11 amendments” and these were also “approved by the (then) Raksha Mantri In January 2014”.
The government also submitted that the DPP was completely followed in the deal. Justice Joseph also asked how the Centre could say so when there was no fresh RFP for the 36 jets. The AG replied that RFP was not needed as it was an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA).
When the bench had finished quizzing Air Vice Marshal J Chalapathi on the latest inductions of aircraft into the IAF, CJI Gogoi told the AG, “You can now ask your Air Vice Marshals and Vice Chief and others to go back to their war rooms. It’s a different kind of war room in here”.