Procurement of 36 Rafale Fighter Jets for the Indian Airforce


Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ranjan Gogoi

HON’BLE THE CHIEF JUSTICE, HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SANJAY KISHAN KAUL, HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE K.M. JOSEPH

Procurement of 36 Rafale Fighter   Jets   for   the   Indian   Airforce. –  case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian Government –  2001, an   in­principle  approval  was   granted   for  procurement   of  126 fighter­jets -Defence   Procurement Procedure (“DPP”) was formulated for the first time in the year 2002.- A robust ‘offset clause’ was included in the DPP in the year 2005 so as to promote Indigenisation and to that effect Services   Qualitative Requirements   (“SQRs”)   were   prepared   in June 2006.-The bidding process commenced

in August 2007.  Six (06) vendors submitted proposals in April,2008- The commercial bids were opened in November, 2011 and M/s Dassault   Aviation  was placed   as   the   L­I   sometime   in   January   2012. – Negotiations commenced   thereafter   and   continued   but   without   any   final result.     In   the   meantime,   there   was   a   change   of   political dispensation at the centre sometime in the middle of the year 2014.-  sometime in the month of September, 2018 when certain newspapers reported a statement claimed to have been made by the former President of France, Francois Hollande, to the effect that the French Government were

left with no choice in the matter of selection of Indian Offset Partners and the Reliance Group was the name suggested by the Government of India.   This seems to have triggered of the writ

petitions under consideration.- What is sought for in the said writ petition is registration of an FIR under relevant provisions of the   Indian   Penal   Code,   1860   and   a   Court   Monitored

Investigation.     The   further   relief   of   quashing   the   Inter­ Governmental Agreement of 2016 for purchase of 36 Rafale Jets has also been prayed for. –

Apex court held that It is our considered opinion/view that the extent of permissible judicial review in matters of contracts, procurement, etc. would vary with the subject matter of the contract and there cannot be any uniform standard or depth of judicial review which

could be understood as an across the board principle to apply to all cases of award of work or procurement of goods/material. The scrutiny of the challenges before us, therefore, will have to be made   keeping   in   mind   the   confines   of   national   security,   the subject   of   the   procurement   being   crucial   to   the   nation’s sovereignty.in none of the writ petitions the suitability of the fighter jets and its utility to the Indian Airforce had been called into question.  Rather what was doubted by the petitioners is the bona fides of the decision­ making process and the price/cost of the equipment at which it was proposed to be acquired. –We   have   examined   closely   the   price   details   and comparison   of   the   prices   of   the   basic   aircraft   along   with escalation costs as under the original RFP as well as under the IGA.   We have also gone through the explanatory note on the costing, item wise.   Suffice   it   to   say   that   as   per   the   price   details,   the   official respondents   claim   there   is   a  commercial   advantage   in   the purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts. The official respondents have claimed   that   there   are   certain   better   terms   in   IGA   qua the maintenance and weapon package.   It is certainly not the job of this Court to carry out a comparison of the pricing details in matters like the present.  We say no more as the material has to be kept in a confidential domain – Apex court held that It cannot   be   lost   sight   of,   that   these   are   contracts   of   defence procurement which should be subject to a different degree and depth   of   judicial   review.     Broadly,   the   processes   have   been followed.  The need for the aircrafts is not in doubt. The quality of the aircraft is not in question.   It is also a fact that the long negotiations for procurement of 126 MMRCAs have not produced any result, and merely conjecturing that the initial RFP could have resulted in a contract is of no use.  The hard fact is that not only was the contract not coming forth but the negotiations had come practically to an end, resulting in a recall of the RFP.  We cannot sit in judgment over the wisdom of deciding to go in for purchase of 36 aircrafts in place of 126.   We cannot possibly compel the Government to go in for purchase of 126 aircraft.This is despite the fact that even before the withdrawal of RFP, an announcement came to be made in April 2015 about the decision to go in only for 36 aircrafts. Our country cannot afford to be unprepared/underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only 4th Generation, but even 5th Generation Aircrafts, of which, we have none.   It will not be correct for the Court to sit as an appellate authority to scrutinize each aspect of the process of acquisition.- mere press interviews or suggestions cannot form the basis for judicial review by this Court, especially when there is categorical denial of the statements made in the Press, by both the sides. – We do not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian Government, as the option to choose the IOP does not rest with the Indian Government.