Advocate Prashant Bhushan on Sunday asked the Centre to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate the Rafale deal, which he dubbed as the the “largest defence scam in India”, reported PTI. He also questioned how Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, the Indian offset partner of French firm Dassault Aviation, could be involved in the deal as “most of his companies are in debt”.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The Congress has been accusing the Narendra Modi government of getting an overpriced deal. It has also alleged that the government helped a defence firm owned by Ambani with no experience in the sector to land a mega contract under the deal.
“This is not only the largest defence scam in India, but is one where national security has been severely compromised,” said Bhushan. “While the IAF wanted 126 flights, it was reduced to 36.”
The government has refused to reveal the per-plane price that it has negotiated in the deal, citing a secrecy agreement with France. Demanding an inquiry by a JPC, Bhushan said, “There is no [element] of national security [as being claimed by the government]. They only want to hide the huge scam in defence purchase.”
He went on to add that Ambani’s company could not have entered the deal without the defence minister’s approval. His comments come after a French media outlet quoted former President Francois Hollande as saying that his government “did not have a say” in choosing Ambani’s company for the deal. The former French president claimed the Indian government had proposed Reliance Defence’s name for the pact, which was agreed upon when he was president. India’s Ministry of Defence, the French government and defence firm Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the jets, have contradicted his claim.
Bhushan along with former Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie had made similar allegations on September 11 and in August. They had then claimed that the Rafale defence deal had put national security at risk. They said the deal with France was a “major scandal” and “by far larger than ones that the country has had to contend with in the past”.