The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to hear a petition filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma seeking a stay on the Rafale fighter jet deal between India with France. A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud considered the submissions of Sharma, who has alleged that there were discrepancies in the Rafale deal.
The news will come as music to the ears for the Congress, which has been at loggerheads with the BJP government over the pricing of the 36 Rafale jets. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has claimed that the per aircraft price under the deal inked by the NDA came to Rs 1,600 crore as against the Rs 520 crore negotiated during the UPA.
Congress, which has demanded a Joint Parliamentary probe onto the deal, has also asked the government to reveal price details of the Rafale jets. The party has also hit out at the Centre for selecting Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group over PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in fulfilling the offset contract.
However, the government has cited a “secrecy clause” signed in 2008 that forbids it from making the details public. Union minister Arun Jaitley has countered the Congress charge by saying that the fully weaponised fighter jets which his government is buying are 20 per cent cheaper than the ones offered under the previous UPA regime.
In 2015, then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said that the government had decided to buy only 36 Rafale fighter jets in a government-to-government deal, scrapping the earlier plan to acquire 126 of the French aircraft on grounds of huge cost.