The Supreme Court of India today ensured a glitch-free induction of the French-made Rafale fighters into the Indian Air Force. rescued the Indian Air Force (IAF). A three-judge bench dismissed a review petition seeking an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation – an anti-corruption agency – into the Rs 59000 crore deal to buy 36 French-made Rafale fighters. “we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with a contract pending with the government for long.” The court also said, “prayer made by the petitioner was for registration of an FIR and CBI inquiry” had been considered earlier merit but had been rejected.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh received the first Rafale fighter on October 8.2019. The first four fighters are likely to reach India and be operationally deployed by March next year.
The IAF needs 42 fighter squadrons to defend the western and northern borders simultaneously. But has just 30. It will lose another three squadrons in the coming months. Had the Supreme Court reversed its earlier decision, it would have automatically resulted in the scrapping of the order. And, importantly, unlike other defence purchase, the price negotiations were led by the then Deputy Chief of Air Staff who is now the current Chief of Air Staff.
Former Air Chief speaks out in favour of IAF
The former air chief, who planned and executed the airstrikes on Balakote terror camp in Pakistan after the February suicide attack in Pulwama, said, “I sincerely hope it has laid to rest all controversy and will allow the IAF to do its duty and acquire new platforms that are required.”
When the Indian Air Force (IAF) defended the Rafale deal then it was criticized for wading into politics, air chief marshal (retd.) BS Dhanoa said on Thursday after the Supreme Court verdict on the purchase of the fighter jets. “The price-negotiations were done by the then deputy chief who is now the Chief of Air Staff. We were absolutely sure the deal was above board,” Dhanoa said explaining why IAF had come out to counter allegations of the Congress about corruption and wrongdoing.
“Nonetheless, when we had defended the deal we were criticised for making a political statement. We were, however, defending the deal on merit, ” Dhanoa said.
“In December 2018, as the chief of air staff, I had welcomed the Supreme Court judgement on the original petition. I am happy the Supreme Court has stood by its earlier judgement,” he said.
The former IAF chief described the Rafale fighters as “superb” fighter.
“We must understand that the fighters are critical for India. Fighters squadrons are dropping and we cannot allow it to drop beyond 30 squadrons to put a credible deterrence,” he said and added, “The two squadrons of Rafale, an additional Russian made Su-30 Mki and two more squadrons of indigenously made Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas will give the required muscle,” he added.