“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
Nothing seems to be going right for Narendra Modi-led NDA Government at present — just six months before the scheduled elections to the Lok Sabha. The CBI is in news for all the wrong reasons as both the top bosses of this premier investigation agency of the country are fighting in courts, the RBI Governor Dr. Urjit Patel has threatened to resign over the interference by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. And now the Prime Minister has suffered a near body blow when the apex court inching closer to scrutinizing the decision-making process behind the controversial Rafale jet fighter deal, on Wednesday gave the government 10 days to disclose all “strategic and confidential” details of the contract, including pricing and its choice of the offset partner. The apex court’s order to deliver the information—in a sealed cover —comes as a likely boost to the opposition, particularly the Congress, which has been demanding a parliamentary probe into the pricing issue and has asked the Prime Minister to clarify the government’s stand on it. The three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, justice SK Kaul and justice K M Joseph, while hearing a batch of petitions seeking a stay on the ₹59,000 crore Rafale deal, which was signed between India and France on 23 September 2016, said they had received the report about the process and wanted the government to share them with the petitioners too to the extent possible. The Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by Dassault Aviation.
Earlier, on October 10, the bench had merely wanted to know how the government decided on its Rafale deal with Dassault, and the government duly complied by giving it a statement on the decision-making process in a “sealed cover” on October 26. This turn around by the bench from its earlier position taken on October 10 is very significant in the current volatile political situation. Now, the court not only wants to know how the deal was decided, but whether the decision itself was right. The big question doing the rounds is — how is it the job of the judiciary to decide this issue? The alleged scam was, however, revealed when the actual price of 36 aircrafts was revealed in a press release by Dassault and Reliance and Financial Press Release statement of Dassault for 2016. The SC bench must have smelled a rat from the petitions lying before it. So, now it is quite likely that after going through those documents submitted on October 26, the bench was not satisfied and wanted to probe more including the pricing before arriving at any conclusion.
The Rafale deal has been the subject of heated claims and counter-claims on two broad issues — that the contract to purchase 36 French multi-role fighter aircraft was grossly overvalued and that it was tainted by crony capitalism. It remains to be seen how the government reacts to the latest court order as it has been maintaining that there is no question of giving the details of the price of Rafale since it is covered under the Official Secrets Act, 1923. The next hearing is on November 14 and the Court’s observations during the hearing will be crucial for the Government as well as Modi.