Hours after the Supreme Court's observation on Friday saying it was "satisfied" with the decision making process in concluding the Rafale fighter jet deal and rejected demands for a probe, French aerospace major Dassault Aviation welcomed the decision.
The French major issued a statement shortly after the apex court announcement and said, "Dassault Aviation welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of India rendered today dismissing all petitions filed on the Rafale Contract signed on 23rd September 2016 in the frame of an Inter-Governmental Agreement between India and France".
The statement further added, "Dassault Aviation takes note of the Supreme Court conclusions establishing the absence of any irregularities in the decision-making process to purchase 36 Rafale, pricing of Rafale jets and selection of Indian offset partners including Anil Ambani owned Reliance Defence by Dassault Aviation."
“The deal is absolutely clean in accordance with Indian laws and regulations, as I have stated before, and the first Falcon part is currently under delivery out of our facility in Nagpur” according to Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
The company said it is fully committed in a strong relationship of mutual trust with India. It also added that "all resources of the company have been mobilised to make the Rafale, chosen by India in 2012 following a very complete competitive bidding process and evaluation, the spearhead of the Indian Air Force (IAF)".
In a major relief to the Modi government, the apex court made the announcement, sparking bitter exchanges between the BJP and the Congress.
The verdict by the apex court that it found no reason to intervene on what it called the "sensitive issue" of purchase of 36 jets from France came as a political victory for the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi just days after the defeat of the party in three Hindi-heartland states--Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chattisgarh-- in the Assembly polls at the hands of the Congress.
PM Modi had come in for a relentless attack from Congress President Rahul Gandhi who alleged corruption in procurement of the fighter jets for the IAF from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, calling it a scam which allegedly benefitted industrialist Anil Ambani.
Holding it did not find any substantial material on record to show there was "commercial favouritism" to any party by the Indian Government in choosing an offset partner, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a "fishing and roving enquiry" by the court and it cannot "sit in judgement" over the wisdom of the decision to go in for purchase of 36 aircraft in place of 126.
"We are satisfied that there is no occasion to really doubt the process, and even if minor deviations have occurred, that would not result in either setting aside the contract or requiring a detailed scrutiny by the court," it ruled.
Shortly after the verdict that comes ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls was pronounced, BJP President Amit Shah launched a blistering attack on the Congress, saying it was a "victory of truth" and demanded an apology from Rahul Gandhi. The court decision is a slap on the face of those who had alleged corruption, Shah told reporters.
But the Congress claimed the Supreme Court has vindicated its stand that the issue of "corruption" in the Rs 36,000 crore Rafale contract cannot be decided by it and challenged the Centre to constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the deal.
Rahul Gandhi stuck to his allegation there was massive corruption in the contract and wondered why the CAG report on the deal was not yet shared with the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament even though it was cited by the apex court.
At a news conference, Gandhi also reiterated the Congress' demand for a JPC probe and claimed if it was conducted the names of Narendra Modi and businessman Anil Ambani will crop up. Both the government and the Ambani's Reliance Group have been outrightly rejecting Gandhi's allegations of any wrongdoing.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley maintained only a judicial body can carry out such a probe as there has been an experience in the past of JPCs working on partisan lines.
"The SC verdict is conclusive and leaves no scope for any doubt on the deal,"he asserted at a joint news conference with Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Jaitley dubbed allegations on the Rafale deal as "fiction writing" that compromised national security, Sitharaman said the matter of Rafale deal has been put to rest through the court verdict.
The apex court gave its 29-page judgement on pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and a court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the jet deal, in which both India and France entered into an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) in 2016 after Modi's summit talks with the then French President Francois Hollande in Paris the previous year.
The three-judge bench dealt with "three broad areas of concern" raised in the petitions , identifying them as "the decision ?making process, pricing and the choice of Indian offset partners (IOP)".