Former Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal (retd) B S Dhanoa on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Rafale fighter jet deal, saying the ruling vindicated the government’s position and that it will have positive impact on overall military procurement.
The political controversy relating to purchase of 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation for the IAF at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore peaked during Dhanoa’s tenure as chief of the air staff and he had stoutly defended the deal.
“It is a welcome verdict, vindicating the government’s position on the issue. We are happy that finally the controversy is buried,” Dhanoa said.
Delivering its much-awaited ruling on the matter, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to review its earlier decision of giving a clean chit to the government while rejecting pleas for registration of an FIR by the Central Bureau of Investigation for alleged irregularities in the deal.
In its order on December 14, 2018, the apex court had said that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement relating to the Rafale jets.
The former IAF chief said he had defended the deal on merit and considering the requirement of the Indian Air Force, referring to criticism in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls that he was making political comments about the procurement.
Dhanoa, who retired in September after a tenure of 41 years in the IAF, maintained that deal was clean and exuded confidence that the verdict by the apex court would have a positive impact on procurement of military platforms by the IAF, the Indian Army and the Navy.
“It is a good verdict for the armed forces,” he said.
There was a view among a section of the defence brass that the Rafale controversy caused delay in procurement of several key military platforms as officers involved were reeling under pressure due to the allegations.
During his tenure, Dhanoa strongly backed the deal asserting it was sealed following a transparent procurement procedure and that the Rafale jets would significantly enhance the IAF’s combat capabilities.
The Congress raised several questions about the deal, including on rates of the aircraft, and alleged corruption but the government has rejected the charges.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets. The first batch of four Rafale jets will arrive in India by May 2020.
The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles. The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
The first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
According to the deal, the delivery of the jets was to be completed in 67 months from the date the contract was signed.
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