Rafale verdict: A brief timeline of the controversial fighter jet deal

Topics Rafale deal  | Rafale

French Rafales and Indian Navy MIG 29 flying past INS Vikramaditya during the joint exercises
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected petitions seeking a review of decision in 2018 that gave a clean chit to the government in the Rafale fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault Aviation.

The bench comprised Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

On December 14, 2018, the apex court dismissed the petitions seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal.

Here is how the Rafale deal progressed since the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance came to power and the Supreme Court verdict

July 2014: Less than two months after the new government came to power, France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development Laurent Fabius meets Prime Minister Modi to push for the Rafale deal.

At this time, the deal is still for 126 aircraft, and French aviation major Dassault has emerged as the winner in the tender in 2012, beating Eurofighter’s Typhoon and Swedish Saab’s Gripen-D light fighter. A month before the scheduled meeting, Dassault Aviation Chief Executive Eric Trappier said that the company was hopeful of closing the deal by end 2014.

December 2014: India and France agree to iron out issues like pricing and a guarantee clause for Dassault to fast-track the deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets.

The issue is discussed during delegation-level talks between Parrikar and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian.

January 2015: The Rafale deal runs into rough weather as Parrikar concedes there were serious problems in negotiating the purchase of the fighters. The Defence Minister says that additional Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, which HAL builds in Nashik, were adequate for the IAF in case it was decided not to procure the Rafale.

February 2015: A senior ministry of defence (MoD) sources says that the proposal to buy Rafales was “effectively dead”.

April 2015: Prime Minister Modi's trip to France brings some major developments in the deal.

On April 10, 2015, setting aside the norms of New Delhi's procurement rulebooks, India and France announce that the IAF would buy 36 Rafale fighters in fly-away condition. These would equip two IAF squadrons with 18 aircraft each.

May 2015: India and France decide to set up teams to work out details of the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition in a "time-bound manner". The decision comes following the meeting between Le Drian and Parrikar.

June 2015: French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian says the deal would be finalised within "two to three months".

January 2016: Nearly two years after the original announcement made by Modi and Hollande, French Ambassador Francois Richier says a "complex negotiation" process is going on for the deal.

February 2016: Issues such as pricing still remain unresolved. Parrikar states that negotiations were deadlocked on the issue of price, and that no deal would be signed until the price was right.

March 2016: The Union Law Ministry raises questions over several clauses in the multi-billion deal, saying they 'compromise' India’s interests.

Things seem to take a turn for the worse, when a senior French official told Business Standard on condition of anonymity: “If some people in the MoD (the ministry of defence) do not want to allow the Rafale deal to go through, so be it. We are currently building it for Egypt and Qatar, and we could have another customer in Malaysia.”

October 2016: Business tycoon Anil Ambani officially entered the picture. Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation announced joint venture.

September 2018: First real blow to Centre comes when former French president Francois Hollande reveals that he had no choice in selecting the Indian offset partner and the name of Reliance was given by the Indian side to French publication Mediapart.

Hollande's interview adds fuel to the fire in controversy. India's Ministry of Defence issues statements reiterating that neither government was involved in the commercial decision. Dassault Aviation issues a statement claiming it was Dassault's decision to choose Reliance.

The Congress alleges Modi government signed the contract with France at a much higher price than negotiated during the UPA rule. Rahul Gandhi and other Opposition leaders demand government reveal the price of Rafale deal. The government says price disclosure covered under secrecy clause of the deal. Congress started alluding to PM Modi as the corrupt guard ("chowkidar chor hai"). Four petitions are filed before the Supreme Court raising questions about the pricing, choice of Reliance as the offset partner, as well as the process followed in finalisation of the Rafale deal.

November 2018: A bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi reserves verdict in the case after extensive arguments.

December 14: The Supreme Court says that it found nothing wrong with the Rafale deal and dismisses all PILs demanding a court-monitored probe into it. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi says that it was "satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process [of signing the Rafale deal]".

January 2019: Congress party claims that it has audio recordings that show a Goa BJP minister saying that former defence minister Manohar Parrikar possesses all files related to the Rafale jet deal. Rahul Gandhi takes Rafale to the parliament. Asks permission to play Goa tape in Lok Sabha

February 2019: Speaking in the Lok Sabha, PM Modi says Congress does not want the Air Force to be strong. He questions whether it was bidding for a company. Meanwhile, a new report reveals Ministry of Defence objected in 2015 to the PMO's "parallel negotiations" with France on the Rafale defence deal. Rahul Gandhi calls it "black and white proof of corruption". Nirmala Sitharaman hits back, says Defence Ministry's reply to 2015 note should also be published.

May 2019: The Supreme Court reserves the order on the pleas filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and others against the top court's judgment.

The Centre also files an affidavit seeking dismissal of the review petition after some internal documents of the Defence Ministry related to the Rafale fighter deal came out in a section of the media.

November 14, 2019: The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected petitions seeking a review of decision in 2018 that gave a clean chit to the government in the Rafale fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault Aviation.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel