Manohar Lal Sharma vs Narendra Damodardas Modi - Supreme Court Important Judgment
Manohar Lal Sharma vs Narendra Damodardas Modi - Supreme Court Important Judgment 2018 -
On 14th December, 2018, in the case of Manohar Lal Sharma v. Narendra Damodardas Modi & Ors. [Writ Petition [Criminal] No.225 of 2018], procurement of 36 Rafale Fighter Jets for the Indian Airforce was challenged, broadly on three aspects, namely, (i) the decision making process; (ii) difference in pricing; and (iii) the choice of Indian Offset Partner (IOP). On consideration of the matter, a three Judge Bench found “no reason for any intervention”.
The Bench observed “that the process was concluded for 36 Rafale fighter jet aircrafts on 23rd September, 2016” but “nothing was called into question, then” and that “it is only taking advantage of the statement by the ex-President of France, Francois Hollande that these set of petitions have been filed”.” The Bench was of the opinion that “it will not be correct for the Court to sit as an appellate authority to scrutinize each aspect of the process of acquisition” and that “it is certainly not the job of this Court to carry out a comparison of the pricing details in matters like the present”. With respect to IOP, the Bench said that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2013 envisaged that the vendor/ Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) will choose its own IOPs; and “in this process, the role of the Government” was “not envisaged.” Also, the Bench did “not find any substantial material on record to show” that this was “a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian Government, as the option to choose the IOP” did “not rest with the Indian Government.”
All the writ petitions were dismissed with the observation that “perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving enquiry by this Court, especially in such matters.” The Supreme Court, however, made it clear that its’ views were “primarily from the standpoint of the exercise of the jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution of India” which had “been invoked in the present group of cases.”