The Supreme Court has said a discussion on the pricing of Rafale fighter jets can only take place if the facts of the deal are allowed to come into the public domain.
The apex court, which began its hearing on pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, also said it was dealing with the requirements of the Air Force and would like to hear from an Air Force officer and “not the official of the Defence Ministry”.
“The decision we need to take is whether to bring the fact on pricing in public domain or not,” a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said. The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, told Attorney General K K Venugopal that there is no question of any debate on pricing without making the facts public. It was instead focussing on the decision making process and the choice of Anil Ambani firm Reliance Defence as an off set partner in the contract.
According to various media reports, the bench clarified that any discussion on price will be considered if it thinks the issue should enter the public domain. The top court also sought the assistance of an Air Force officer on the issue.
“We are dealing with the requirements of the Air Force and would like to ask an Air Force officer on Rafale jets. We want to hear from an Air force officer and not the official of the Defence Ministry on the issue,” the bench said when the attorney general began his arguments on behalf of the Centre in the pre-lunch session.