Manoharlal Sharma v. Narendra Damodardas Modi & Others


The Manoharlal Sharma v. Narendra Damodardas Modi & Others case is a notable legal issue that captured the public’s interest and brought up fundamental issues with relation to constitutional law, political accountability, and the authority of elected officials. Manohar Lal, a citizen, was pitted against Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister at the time, in this case. The allegation are raised against the present government in front of the press by the opposition party.[1] We shall examine the main points and ramifications of this legal issue in this case remark.

  1. Facts:

The “Rafale Fighter Jet Case” is the common name for this case. The background of this issue dated back to 2007[2], when the Ministry of Defence of India proposed the procurement of 126 fighter aircraft during the Congress-led UPA government.

Manohar Lal Sharma is suing Narendra Modi and others over the Indian governManohar Lal Sharma’s public interest litigation (PIL), there were errors, corruption, and violations of the procurement process.

ment’s purchase of 36 Rafale combat planes from Dassault Aviation. In the Rafale agreement, according to attorney Issues Raised:

Alleged irregularities and corruption were the main points of contention in the lawsuit, which involved the purchase of 36 Rafale combat jets. The petitioner claimed that the agreement had procedural flaws and favouritism. They claimed that accountability and openness were compromised by circumventing the procurement procedure. The petitioner aimed to prove that the transaction was contaminated by corruption and that it went against fairness and public interest norms.

Breach of Procurement rules and Lack of openness: The alleged breach of procurement rules and a lack of openness in the Rafale agreement were other significant issues brought up. The petitioner claimed that the government did not follow the required procurement procedures and that the decision-making process was not transparent. They attempted to prove that the contract did not uphold the ideals of fair competition, public bidding, and equal opportunity for all prospective providers.

Financial Loss to the Exchequer: According to the petitioner, the Rafale agreement cost the exchequer money. They argued that the agreement’s conditions were unfavourable to the government and caused exaggerated costs and unnecessary expenditures. The question at hand was whether the deal’s financial implications had been fairly assessed and if the government had acted in the interests of taxpayer money.

Compromise of National Security: The purported compromise of national security was a crucial point brought up. The petitioner claimed that the conditions of the Rafale agreement undermined and exposed the nation’s defence capabilities. They said that the choice of the Rafale fighter jets was not supported by an adequate technical evaluation and that it jeopardised the security interests of the country. The key question was whether the agreement met the requirements for national defence and adequately addressed the operational needs of the Indian Air Force.

Need for Court-Monitored Investigation: The petitioner demanded that the Rafale agreement be the subject of a court-monitored investigation. They contended that in order to look into the claims of anomalies, corruption, and violations of procurement processes, an impartial investigation was required. The question posed was whether the Court ought to use its power to launch an investigation and make sure that it was conducted in a fair and unbiased manner.

The Supreme Court of India had to consider these matters in order to make a ruling because they were the case’s fundamental contentions. It is significant to remember that understanding the reasoning behind the Supreme Court’s final ruling in the case requires understanding its analysis and conclusions addressing these problems.

 III. Contentions:

a. Petitioner’s Contention:

The petitioner, Manohar Lal Sharma, claimed that corruption and favouritism tainted the Rafale contract. It was reported that the procurement procedure was omitted, jeopardising accountability and transparency. The petitioner further alleged that the purchase jeopardised national security and cost the government money.

b. Government’s Contention:

In its defence of the Rafale agreement and debunking of the claims of irregularities and corruption, the government was represented by the Attorney General. The administration insisted that the procurement process was carefully handled and that all relevant processes were fulfilled. It was asserted that the transaction was necessary to ensure national defence capabilities because of the urgency and operational needs of the Indian Air Force.

  1. Rationale:
  2. Supreme Court Analysis:

 During its discussion, the Supreme Court carefully considered the evidence, arguments, and counterarguments put forth by both sides. The Rafale deal’s legality and propriety were the main concerns of the Court. It examined the legal issues, the function of the government, and the requirement of fighter jets for national defence.

  • Supreme Court’s Decision:

In December 2018, the Supreme Court denied petitions calling for a court-supervised investigation into the Rafale agreement. The Court expressed satisfaction with the deal’s procedure and found no irregularities or any material that required its intervention. According to the evidence provided, the decision affirmed the legality and propriety of the Rafale deal.

  • Facts of Law Inference:

 In the lawsuit, Dassault Aviation was accused of engaging in irregularities, corruption, and violations of the procurement process when the Indian government purchased 36 Rafale fighter jets from them. The Indian Supreme Court considered the evidence and arguments put forward by both sides before making a determination based on legal inference. Here are some crucial components of the law from facts inference.

Separation of powers:

The Supreme Court acknowledged the concept of separation of powers, which outlines the different functions of the legislative, executive, and judicial departments of government. The Court acted with moderation in this case when it came to intervening in executive branch matters. It confirmed that the executive branch controls most defence procurement decisions, including those involving the Rafale contract.

Judicial Review: In this instance, the Court used its judicial review authority, which gives judges the right to evaluate government activities to make sure they comply with the Constitution and recognised legal norms. In order to determine the legality and propriety of the Rafale transaction, it thoroughly examined the papers, arguments, and counterarguments made by both parties.

Procurement of procedures and transparency: The alleged violation of procurement procedures and lack of openness in the Rafale contract were two of the main arguments raised in the case. To ascertain whether the government adhered to the established procedures, the Court examined the pertinent laws, regulations, and directives governing public procurement. It examined whether the competitiveness, fairness, and transparency of the procurement process were upheld.

Financial Loss and National Security: The petitioner claimed that the Rafale agreement cost the government money and jeopardised national security. The Court considered the information and arguments offered by the petitioner and determined whether these allegations had sufficient merit. It assessed whether the agreement was in the best interests of the country’s defence capabilities, as well as if any financial losses or compromises were justified.

Burden of Proof: When allegations of irregularities and corruption are made, the party making the claims bears the burden of proof. The Court considered the petitioner’s facts and arguments to decide whether they reached the required standard of proof. The Court assessed whether the petitioner had presented convincing evidence to back up his claims and create a prima facie case.The Supreme Court issued its ruling in December 2018 based on the aforementioned facts of law conclusion. However, in order to fully comprehend the Court’s ruling, it is critical to consult official court records, legal resources, and credible news sites that cover the issue. These materials will provide a thorough examination of the legal principles and rationale.


The Manohar Lal Sharma vs. Narendra Modi & Others case, which involved the Rafale fighter jet contract, was a significant legal conflict that called into question the fairness, accountability, and openness of government procurement. The Supreme Court’s decision to deny the requests for a court-monitored investigation showed how circumspect the Court is about meddling in administrative actions. The Court upheld the legality and propriety of the Rafale agreement based on the facts provided after carefully reviewing the arguments and supporting documentation and concluding that the claims of anomalies and corruption were without foundation.

The Court respects the executive’s domain while emphasising its responsibility in maintaining constitutional principles and requiring conformity to procedural rules in this case, underscoring the importance of the separation of powers. In order to reinforce the necessity for fair procedures and the avoidance of corruption in government contracts, it highlights the significance of transparency, accountability, and due diligence in public procurement processes.

The case also illustrates the Court’s role in judicial review, especially when it comes to issues of public concern, where it serves as a bulwark against potential infringements on constitutional rights and interests. The ruling acknowledges the government’s right to make choices that are in the best interests of the nation’s defence as long as they comply with applicable laws and regulations.

Ashmeen Aggarwal

Army Institute of law

[1] Mamta Kumari’s case summary Manoharlal Sharma vs Narendra Damodardas Modi ( last visited on 22 june, 2023)

[2] Yash Tiwari’s case brief Manoharlal Sharma v/s Narendra Damodardas Modi & Others ( last visited 22 july 2023)