New Delhi: The centre handed over two notes to the Supreme Court on Monday seeking to justify the decision-making process and choice of offset partner in detail in the Rafale jet fighter deal and said it had followed the process set out in the defence procurement procedure of 2013. Pricing details were, however, submitted to the court in a sealed cover.

“The approval of the DAC (Defence Acquisition Council) for procurement of 36 Rafale aircraft was taken, an Indian negotiating team (INT) was constituted, which conducted negotiations with the French side for about a year, and the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) was taken before signing the inter-governmental agreement," the government said in the notes.

The INT held 74 meetings over the Rafale deal and the CCS gave its approval on 24 August 2016, the centre submitted.

Under the two offset contracts—with Dassault Aviation and MBDA —the vendor’s offset obligations are scheduled to start from October 2019.

The centre was responding to the court’s order of 31 October, seeking disclosure of all “strategic and confidential" details of the contract, including pricing and choice of offset partners.

The Congress, which accused the government of corruption and crony capitalism, said it will respond later in detail on the fresh developments-

The Congress, which accused the government of corruption and crony capitalism, said it will respond later in detail on the fresh developments.

“This needs to be studied...but there are two to three issues. It (the court) has still not been told what the price is...and the most important part is that there is a virtual admission that the CCS was not consulted before. You will consult after giving the contract or you will consult before giving your word to the country of France?" asked Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

“This is not a response. It looks like an attempt to confuse and the process is the same as what we have been seeing in the past one year. The simple reason is that there is no answer," Singhvi said.

The details, except pricing, were also shared by the centre with the counsel of the petitioners—lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cabinet ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie.

The apex court was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a stay on the 59,000 crore Rafale deal, which was signed between India and France in 2016. The Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by Dassault Aviation.

Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure Ltd has a 51:49 joint venture with Dassault, the maker of Rafale, called Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), which has an offset contract of about 30,000 crore for 36 Rafale aircraft.

The pleas before the court included one by Sinha seeking a court-monitored investigation to ensure an “independent, robust, and fair investigation, free from the influence of the powerful people involved".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India’s decision to buy 36 Rafale jets off-the-shelf in a government-to-government agreement during his visit to France in April 2015, cancelling the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s 2012 decision to buy 18 Rafale jets in a fly-away condition and manufacturing 108 in India. The delivery of the jets is slated to begin in September 2019.

Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities have to spend at least 30% of the total contract value in India by procuring components or setting up research and development facilities. The offset clause for the Rafale deal was set at 50%. The case will be heard next on 14 November.

Anuja contributed to this story.

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