Supreme Court asks Centre for details on Rafale pricing in sealed cover

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to provide information on the pricing of Rafale fighter jets, the deliverables in a controversial Indo-French deal, in a sealed cover. The government has ten days to do so.The court also asked the Modi government to provide strategic details on the planes — again, in a sealed cover. The next hearing is on November 14.Earlier this year, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the per unit cost of Rafale jets couldn’t be shared with Parliament due to a secrecy clause.The deal in a nutshell: In 2016, India and France signed a deal for 36 Rafale jets, to be delivered to India starting this September. A previous UPA-era deal never went through. Under the final contract, Dassault Aviation, which makes Rafales, needed to make compensation investments (or offsets) in India worth 50 per cent of the value of the purchase. In October 2016, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Limited and Dassault announced a joint venture. (Read a timeline of the deal till September 2018 here.)ALSO READ | Dassault’s chief executive said Rafales will be delivered to India starting next year.Differences in the UPA and NDA deals: The first deal was for 126 jets: Eighteen to be imported in a fly-away condition, and 108 to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited with help from Dassault. The current deal is for 36 aircraft. As well, the Congress claims its deal was cheaper. (Go deeper.)Why the deal is controversial Former French President Francois Hollande with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Elysee Palace in Paris, in April 2015. (Photo: Reuters)The Congress has alleged that the Modi government favoured Anil Ambani’s Reliance to HAL’s detriment. The row took on an explosive new dimension when Francois Hollande, the man who was France’s president when the 2016 deal was inked, said the Indian government “proposed” Reliance Defence as Dassault’s Indian partner (for the offset clause of the agreement).”We didn’t have any say in the matter,” Hollande told Mediapart, a French journal. “We didn’t have a choice in the matter; we took the interlocutor who was given to us.”Dassault Aviation then said it — and not the Indian government — chose Reliance Defence.The removal of two of the CBI’s top officials gave the Congress some more ammunition. Rahul Gandhi said Alok Verma, the CBI chief, was sent on leave because the CBI was about to being a probe into Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the Rafale deal.WATCH | CBI row is BJP’s attempt to scuttle Rafale probe: Congress
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