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.


Swine flu kills 40 in western India

Updated 54 min 6 sec ago
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Swine flu kills 40 in western India

  • Last year around 1,100 people died and 15,000 were infected across India by the highly contagious A H1N1 virus that spreads from human-to-human
  • Cases spike in the winter months of December and January in the west and north of the country including in Rajasthan and in New Delhi

JAIPUR, India: At least 40 people have died and more than 1,000 have tested positive for swine flu since the beginning of this year in a western Indian state popular with foreigners, authorities said Friday.
Last year around 1,100 people died and 15,000 were infected across India by the highly contagious A H1N1 virus that spreads from human-to-human.
Cases spike in the winter months of December and January in the west and north of the country including in Rajasthan and in New Delhi.
Authorities in Rajasthan, famous for its deserts and palaces, have told doctors they must seek permission before going on leave and plan a door-to-door campaign to detect infected patients.
Health officials have also launched an awareness campaign to sensitise people about symptoms, precautions and treatment, and have screened more than 5,100 people.
“Total deaths are 40 and positive cases are 1,036 as from January 1 to 17 in Rajasthan. One of the deaths occurred on Thursday,” according to a statement by the Rajasthan health department.
One high-profile victim in Delhi this week was Amit Shah, a top aide to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was admitted to hospital with the virus.
Rajasthan’s Jodhpur district recorded the highest death toll with 16 fatalities and 225 people testing positive.
No travel advisory has been issued however.