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To give or not to give: How the decision to hand over details regarding Rafale was taken

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New Delhi, Nov 14: It did take everyone by surprise, when the Centre put out a considerable amount of details regarding the Rafale deal before the Supreme Court of India.

To give or not to give: How the decision to hand over details regarding Rafale was taken

On an earlier date of hearing the Centre had told the Supreme Court that the details regarding the financial details could not be handed over. To this the Supreme Court had asked the Centre to file an affidavit to this effect stating that these details could not be handed over.

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Prior to handing over the document to the court, there were deliberations within the government. The deliberations were on between Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Attorney General, K K Venugopal.

All three decided that the government would hide nothing from the Supreme Court. However it was unanimously also agreed that an affidavit would be produced in case the judges directed that the pricing be revealed to the petitioners. The affidavit had the list of reasons as to why such action could not be permitted

In the Supreme Court, the Centre had explained why the state HAL failed to become an offset partner in the deal. The government claimed that the issues pertained to lack of common understanding between HAL and Dassault Aviation.

"The contract negotiations could not conclude mainly due to unresolved issues related to 108 aircraft to be manufactured in India. These issues pertained to lack of common understanding between HAL and Dassault Aviation on following," the documents said.

It said HAL required "2.7 times higher man-hours compared to the French side for the manufacture of Rafale aircraft in India".

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The Centre said that in so far as discharging of the offset obligations by Dassault and its Tier I Vendors through Indian Offset partners is concerned, there is no mention of any private Indian Business House in intergovernmental agreement or Offset contract. The inter-governmental agreement between India and France were signed on Sept 23, 2016, the Centre also said.

Further it said that after the Indian negotiation team submitted its report on fully loaded 36 Rafale jets on August 4, 2016, it was vetted by the finance and law ministries within 20 days and the Cabinet Committee approved the deal on August 24 2016.

The pricing details were however given to the SC in a sealed cover. It may be recalled that on October 31, the Centre had claimed privilege on it. The court had however stated that the Centre should file an affidavit that it cannot submit these details.

Further the Centre said that Dassault the makers of Rafale or its weapon vendor is yet to submit a formal proposal in the prescribed manner indicating details of the Indian offset earners and products for offset discharge. Further the Centre said that until October 2019 no offset partner can get any money under agreement from India. The government also said it had nothing to hide and hence it was decided that Rafale prices would be revealed only to the Judges of the Supreme Court.

The court is hearing a PIL against the Rafale deal between India and France .

The petition sought information about the contract given to Reliance by Dassault.

Advocate M L Sharma's plea, filed earlier, alleging discrepancies in the fighter jet deal with France and seeking a stay on it will also come up for hearing on October 10.

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Sharma claimed in his plea that the inter-government agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets must be quashed as it was an "outcome of corruption" and not ratified by Parliament under Article 253 (Parliament has power to make any law for implementing any inter-government agreement) of the Constitution.

Rafale deal is a defence agreement signed between the governments of India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircrafts in a fly-away condition as a part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.

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