The casualties faced by the Indian armed forces in the Kargil war would have been far less if the country had Rafale fighter jets back then, the centre told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
However, its impassioned justification of the nation’s need to acquire the aircraft from France failed to impress the bench, which pointed out that Attorney General KK Venugopal may be mixing up timelines to make a point.
“Soldiers lost their lives in the Kargil war. Had Rafale been used during the war, it could have hit the hilltops from 60 kilometres away,” Mr Venugopal told a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, insisting that due procedure was followed while inking the inter-government agreement with France for the acquisition of 36 Rafale jets.
“This is a sensitive area and a necessity of the country. Even the Air Force chief has been asking us to enhance the capability of the force,” Mr Venugopal said, concluding his arguments during the hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the Rafale deal.
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, had a problem with the example cited by the Attorney General. “Mister Attorney, didn’t Kargil happen in 1999-2000?” he asked. “Rafale came only in 2014.”
The observation made Mr Venugopal laugh. “I meant hypothetically… if Rafale (aircraft) had been there during the Kargil war,” he clarified.
The court was hearing petitions seeking a probe into charges that the government had scrapped a deal for 126 Rafale jets negotiated by the previous Congress-led government, and instead opted for a lopsided contract for 36 jets just to help industrialist Anil Ambani’s debt-hit defence company bag an offset partnership with Dassault. During today’s four-hour hearing, the Supreme Court questioned the government’s stance that it had played no role in deciding the offset clause — which is the focal point of the opposition’s charge of corruption in the Rs 59,000-crore contract.
The government, for its part, defended the need to keep the price of the aircraft a secret because it would “benefit adversaries” of the country. “These matters are for experts to deal with… we have been saying that even the parliament has not been told about the complete cost of jets,” Mr Venugopal said, adding that these details cannot be disclosed under the Right to Information Act either.
But lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, who is one of the petitioners, wondered how revealing the price of the aircraft would compromise national security. “It was disclosed in Parliament twice… The government is now saying what was stated in Parliament is the basic price. The government is hiding behind the secrecy agreement,” he claimed.
News credit : Msn.com