It is not the function of the court to determine prices, a bench comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph said, adding the internal mechanism for such pricing would take care of the situation.
The allegation was that the price per aircraft that India is paying under a revised deal for 36 jets from France’s Dassault Aviation was costlier than what it had agreed to pay under a previous deal. The government had said the aircraft would come with additional equipment under the new contract. In December, the court ruled that there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process.
The petitioners, former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, sought a review of the order. “On perusal of documents, we found that one cannot compare apples and oranges. Thus, pricing of basic aircraft had to be compared, which was competitively marginally lower,” the court said. “As to what should be loaded on the aircraft or not and what further pricing should be added has to be left to the best judgment of the competent authorities.”
Except to a limited extent, this court did not consider it appropriate to embark on a fishing enquiry, it said, while ruling “the review petitions are without any merit and are accordingly dismissed”. The ruling had recorded that the pricing details were shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General and would be examined by the Public Accounts Committee.
This information was supplied by the government to the court in a sealed cover. Those seeking to probe the deal had claimed there was no such report and that the government had misled the court. The court clarified the government had only said a redacted version of the report would be placed in public domain. The court also closed a criminal contempt case against Congress’ Rahul Gandhi over his “chowkidar chor hai” remark with a rebuke.
Gandhi had made the remark after the court dismissed some objections raised by the government over the admissibility of documents produced by the petitioners in the Rafale review pleas. BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi had approached the court against this. “No doubt the contemnor should have been far more careful,” the bench said.