NEW DELHI: The Central government on Wednesday defended the Rafale deal in Supreme Court and listed out the benefits of the fighter jets. Attorney General KK Venugopal told the apex court that lives of several soldiers could have been saved if these jets were available during the Kargil war.
"Had we possessed Rafale during the Kargil war, we could have avoided huge casualties as Rafale is capable of hitting targets from a distance of 60 kms." However, CJI Ranjan Gogoi questioned the AG over the argument stating that Kargil war took place in 1999 while the Rafale jets came into existence in 2014. "Mr. Attorney, Kargil was in 1999-2000? Rafale came in 2014." The top law officer replied saying, "I said it hypothetically".
The AG, during the arguments, said he cannot divulge details of the deal and defended the secrecy clause related to the pricing of the 36 Rafale fighter jets. Stating that he would not be able to assist the court further on the pricing issue, Venugopal said: "I decided not to peruse it myself as in a case of any leak, my office would be held responsible."
He also told the apex court that the court is judicially not competent to decide what aircraft and weapons are to be bought as it is a matter for experts. "These matters are for the experts to deal with and we have been saying that even Parliament has not been told about the complete cost of jets", the Attorney General said.
The Centre stated that it has submitted the details of the Rafale jets, the weapons to be fitted on the aircraft and other requirements in a sealed cover on Monday.
While the Centre was making a submission on the issue of pricing, the bench, also comprising justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, said any discussion on pricing of the Rafale fighter jets can only take place if the facts on the deal are allowed to come in the public domain. "The decision we need to take is whether to bring the fact on pricing in public domain or not," the bench said.
The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.
Venugopal said earlier, the jets were not to be loaded with requisite weapons system and the reservation of the government was due to the fact that it did not want to violate the clause of the Inter-Government Agreement and the secrecy clause. He also told the court that presently three countries France, Egypt and Qatar are flying Rafale fighter jets.
When asked if the deal had a sovereign guarantee, the AG said that no guarantee has been signed but there is a letter of comfort by France which would be as good as a governmental guarantee.