My Lords of Apex Court: Ignorance of National Security Personified!?

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(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

 The Rafale case hearing in the highest seat of judiciary – Supreme Court – mercilessly exposed  ignorance of the Bench on matters of national security.

How can the Bench feign ignorance  or be ignorant of classification of jet fighters? If so how can one trust them to give judgment on matters in which they do not have the basic knowledge of classification of jet fighters that can be easily accessed from “Google Search” with one click on the mouse?

Never too late for the Air Force to invite judges to attend the annual Fire Power demonstration and expose to them the grave inadequacies.  Furthermore, judges must be exposed to the running commentary on the Republic Day fly past narrating the classification of combat system. High time the “Holy Cow Syndrome” based on secret classification be dumped in to the Indian Ocean since all basic information is available in public domain.

Is the Bench oblivious to the irrefutable fact that has been making waves in the public domain that acquisition of fighters, tanks, guns, ships and so on has been continuously kept on hold since the outbreak of “Boffor’s Scam” in mid 1980s?

In particular, when even a lower division clerk in the North and South Blocks know that the IAS Babus are scared to pen their initials on files dealing with procurement?

The Supreme Court should have taken suo motto notice on the absurd state of preparedness of armed forces since 1990os and taken successive governments to tasks on such vital national security matters.  Isn’t a failure on the part of the judiciary?

Calling 3 senior Air Force Officers to the Court to ask basic questions whose answers are available in public domain is ironic and simply laughable. Let me highlight that by calling the three senior officers in uniform to the Court, the Bench has demonstrated scant disrespect to the Armed Forces.  Is it arrogance or narcissist demonstration borne out of the power of the Chair?

Did the Bench did not realize that  the appearance of three senior air force officers would not go down well among the armed forces ranks and adversely affects their morale. In fact, the Bench must apologize to the nation and the forces for their indiscretion.

 Never too late to reproduce the categorization of generations of jet fighter accessed from the Google Search that gives details obtained from 4 sources – Hallion; Aerospaceweb; Air Force Magazine and Air Power Development Center. In general, their classification includes:

  • Generation 1  – High subsonic, Subsonic and jet propulsion and  (1943–55).
  • Generation 2  – Transonic and supersonic (1955-1960) armed with IR missiles.
  • Generation 3 –Supersonic multi role and  fighter-bombers with Beyond Visual Range missiles (1960-1970). MIG 21 falls in this category.
  • Generation 4 – Supersonic multi role (look down shoot down and swing role) (1970-1990). Mirage 2000 and MIG 29s.
  • Generation 4+ – sensor fusion : Eurofighter Typhoon, Su-30, F/A-18E/F, Dassault Rafale.
  • Generation 4.5 – 1990 to 2000, enhanced : F/A-18E/F, Su-30, Su-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, Dassault Rafale.
  • Generation 4++ – EASA : Su-35, F-15SE.
  • Generation 5  – Stealth fighters  F-22, F-35,  F-22, Chinese  J-20, J-31, and Russian  PAK FA.
  • Generation 6  – proposed supersonic and hypersonic  multi role high efficiency.

 Details of avionics, radars, BVR missiles and other systems are also available in the public domain. So, why call the senior Air Force officers in uniform to explain rudimentary facts of fighters. Isn’t it crass arrogance of judiciary on grand display?

In retrospect, the Bench must call the Managing Director of HAL to explain his incapability to design and produce indigenously a “jet engine” with 30,000 personnel? Surely, the nation must know the grim realities of the efficacy of PSUs that were started well before the Chinese could ever thinks of such ventures?

Also, the Bench dismissed the Civilian Additional Secretary from briefing them on the whole issue.  It raises a crucial issue. If the “Civilian bureaucracy” is woefully incompetent, why persist with them to preside over national security affairs?  The Court must also pass its verdict on the redundancy of civilian ‘Babus” and replace them with “Armed Forces Personnel” besides directing the Government to adopt the Chief of Defense Staff to provide the single point advise on all matters of defense.

Finally, where is the need for the comment asking the men in uniform to “go back to your war room; the court is a different war room”. What were they showing off – judicial arrogance on grand display not befitting the highest court of land.

If there is one lesson for the judiciary to learn from the Rafale episode is that they must order SIT enquiry into the functioning of PSUs and Ordnance Factories that have failed to design, develop and indigenously manufacture all combat systems and pass their strictures on the government.

In sum, the Rafale hearing and judicial review confirms that the true state of national security and defense affairs are least understood even in highest “wise councils of India”. No wonder, the invocation of “Blind Men of Hindoostan” is quite appropriate at all apex bodies.

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