NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday objected when the apex court said it would review the Rafale deal, saying the "matter is for experts to decide on".
Attorney General KK Venugopal asked if the "court was competent to judicially review the Rafale deal".

The Supreme Court on Wednesday commenced its crucial hearing on pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

The government, during the hearing, vehemently opposed judicial review of the purchase of the fighter jets, questioning if the apex court was even qualified to examine it. “It is for the experts to examine what kind of weaponry and avionics are required. Question is if the Court is really competent to deal with such an issue,” the AG said.

Venugopal also opposed advocate Bhushan who wanted to submit information on the secrecy clause of the Rafale agreement. “Secrecy agreement has to be secret and how he is producing it in court,” Venugopal said when Bhushan raised the issue of secrecy clause.

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The matter is being heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph is likely to peruse the pricing details submitted by the government in a sealed cover.
During the hearing, Bhushan contested the government's claim that the prices of Rafale fighter jets could not be revealed due to secrecy clause. "How the price of the aircraft compromise national security," he asked in the Supreme Court.

The secrecy clause of the defence deal between India and France prevents the government from divulging the price of the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).

The activist-lawyer submitted that the NDA government “short circuited” the acquisition process by taking the Inter Government Agreement (IGA) route to avoid giving tender. He said there was no sovereign guarantee from the French government in the deal and argued that initially the law ministry flagged the issue and later gave in to the proposal of entering into the IGA.

Bhushan added that the Reliance Defence of industrialist Anil Ambani was chosen as an offset partner by Rafale manufacturer Dassault even before the Reliance got the land.
"It's clear that Reliance was part of the formula," Prashant Bhushan said adding, the Rafale deal "needs to be investigated."

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The Supreme Court bench also asked the government to produce an Indian Air Force officer at the hearing before going into the arguments on whether the correct procedure was followed in the aircraft deal. 

(With PTI inputs)