|India's top court on Friday rejected petitions by activists seeking a probe into the government purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said there was no reason to doubt the government's decision-making process in the multibillion dollar deal.
The purchase has become a major political issue in India with the main opposition Indian National Congress party accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of buying the aircraft at nearly three times the price being negotiated when it was the ruling party before Modi came to power in 2014.
The government has denied the claim but says a secrecy clause governs the deal's pricing. Gogoi said it was not the job of the court to deal with the comparative details of the pricing. Activist Prashant Bhushan, a petitioner, said he believes that the court verdict was against the country's interests.
"The aircraft deal needed a proper investigation in view of allegations about its pricing" and the choice of Indian partners, Bhushan said.
Congress party President Rahul Gandhi has accused Modi's government of favoring a company owned by industrialist Anil Ambani, Reliance Group, when choosing an Indian partner for Dassault, the aircraft manufacturer.
Randeep Surjewala, a party spokesman, demanded a probe by a joint parliamentary committee. The government has denied any wrongdoing. The Supreme Court said "there was no substantial evidence of commercial favoritism to any private entity" and there was no reason to interfere with the issues of procurement, pricing and partner.
The controversy has intensified following comments in October by former French President Francois Hollande — who was in charge when the deal was signed in 2016 + suggesting France had no say in selecting the Indian company.