India’s top court gives govt 10 days to reveal details of military jet deal

The purchase of 36 Rafale planes has become a major political controversy in India. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2018
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India’s top court gives govt 10 days to reveal details of military jet deal

  • The court said that the government should share the details of an $8.7-billion military jet deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to former ministers and an activist who say the information should be in the public domain

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Wednesday gave the government 10 days to disclose the details of an $8.7-billion military jet deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to former ministers and an activist who say the information should be in the public domain.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale planes has become a major political controversy because of the escalating price and a decision to pick billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense as a domestic partner.
Reliance, which has no aeronautical expertise, was chosen instead of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics, which has a long history of making planes.
The Supreme Court ruled that if the material was strategic in nature or involved national security, the government might choose not to reveal it to the petitioners, but will instead have to furnish it to the court in a sealed package.
“We ask the center to give details of the pricing and strategic details of Rafale fighter aircraft in sealed cover in 10 days,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, referring to the government.
The ruling came in a hearing on petitions including a joint plea by former government ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, on the jet deal.
“There should be a court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the Rafale deals,” Bhushan told the panel of three judges during arguments.
The court’s order was a “very, very substantial step forward,” another petitioner, Arun Shourie, told television channel NDTV after the order.
“Confidentiality does not relate to price, only technical specifications,” he added. “It will be subject to challenge. It will be difficult to say pricing is confidential.”
The Official Secrets Act covers most of the details regarding the Rafale jets, including pricing, and it would not be possible for the government to share them with anyone, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the government, told the court.
The panel said that if the government felt the pricing of the Rafale jet could not be shared with the court, even in a sealed cover, it should say so in an affidavit.
The Supreme Court also asked the government to give copies of the decision-making process to the petitioners.


South Sudan plans to build new capital in former game park

Updated 54 min 18 sec ago
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South Sudan plans to build new capital in former game park

  • The new capital, to be named Ramciel, will be located in Lakes State and will be built in an area that was previously a rhino sanctuary in the forest
  • The initial planning for the project is being funded by approximately $5 million from Morocco and will be carried out by South Korea

JUBA: South Sudan is planning to construct a new state capital in a central location in what was a wildlife park, a move that officials say will make the seat of government more accessible to the people, the government said on Wednesday.
“We’re not supposed to have our capital near the borders. The capital is the center of everything and it needs to be easy for everyone to come,” government spokesman Michael Makuei told The Associated Press.
The new capital, to be named Ramciel, will be located in Lakes State and will be built in an area that was previously a rhino sanctuary in the forest. The land is currently uninhabited and lacks basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity.
The initial planning for the project is being funded by approximately $5 million from Morocco and will be carried out by South Korea. Morrocan and Korean engineers will visit the site this week to begin demarcating areas for roads, utilities, markets, residential areas and key government installations.
Plans to move the capital from Juba, where it is now, to the new city have been in the works since before South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011, said the government. Morocco’s decision to contribute to the project was discussed during King Mohammed VI’s trip to the war-torn nation in February, 2017.
The executive branch will move to Ramciel, while Juba will remain South Sudan’s commercial center as well as either the judicial or legislative hub, he said.
Five years of civil war have devastated South Sudan, killing almost 400,000 people and displacing millions. The power sharing agreement signed by warring parties in September is the latest attempt at peace, although implementation of the accord has been fraught with delays and there has been continued fighting in parts of the country.
At least one South Sudan analyst says the move to the new capital should not be a priority.
“Roads, health, education, economy and a stabilization agenda should top the list,” Augustino Ting Mayai, a researcher at the Sudd Institute in Juba.