The Supreme Court on Wednesday told the government to provide details of the decision-making process leading to the purchase of the Rafale but made it clear that this did not construe to be a formal notice on the two petitions it had taken up.
“It is only for the purpose of satisfying ourselves,” the judges said, underlining that it had not taken into account any of the points made about the deal in the two petitions “that appear to be grossly inadequate”.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Rajan Gogoi also ordered that the centre’s report “would not cover issue of pricing or suitability of the equipment for Indian Air Force, keeping in mind the sensitive nature” of the information.
The bench had earlier agreed to hear two petitions, one seeking the details of the agreement India has entered into with France for buying 36 Rafale Fighter Jets and the other seeking setting up of a special investigation team under the supervision of the apex court to probe the deal.
This information is to be filed with the top court’s registrar general in sealed cover.
The Centre had earlier asked the court to dismiss the petitions, insisting that these were “politically motivated”.
The petitions have been filed close to election time and should not be entertained as they do not involve public interest.
Arguing for dismissal of the petitions, the government’s top law officer, Attorney General KK Venugopal said the case pertains to national security and even he would not be supplied with any information pertaining to the deal.
Apart from petitioned by two lawyers Vineet Dhanda and ML Sharma, Aam Admi Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh had also moved the top court. He had sought orders to form a special team to probe the matter and that the apex court monitor it. The AAP leader’s plea sought that the SIT should probe “as to how the figure of 36 fighter jets was arrived at without the formalities associated with such a highly sensitive defence procurement”.