Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani on Friday welcomed the Supreme Court judgement refusing an inquiry into India’s Rafale jet deal with French company Dassault Aviation. Ambani reiterated that the allegations against him and his company in connection with the deal were “wild, baseless and politically motivated”, and said the court had “conclusively established” this.
Ambani and his company were at the centre of a political controversy surrounding offset obligations under the deal, which led to petitions being filed in the Supreme Court to seek an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The court on Friday dismissed all of them, saying there was nothing to show “corporate favouritism” in the agreement.
The Congress had accused the government of overpaying for the Rafale fighter aircraft and claimed that the deal benefited Ambani. Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s allegations were bolstered by former French President Francois Hollande’s claim in September that the Indian government had proposed the name of Ambani’s Reliance Defence for the offset obligations in the deal.
Ambani said on Friday: “We remain committed to India’s national security and to making our humble contribution towards the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ policies of the Government in the critical area of defence, including our offset partnership agreement with our valued partner, Dassault Aviation of France.”
Meanwhile, Dassault vowed to successfully implement Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative, ANI reported. “Dassault Aviation is dedicated to successfully establishing ‘Make in India’ as promoted by PM Modi,” the firm said. “Dassault Aviation will ensure a successful production in India through Dassault Reliance Joint Venture in Nagpur as well as through a full-fledged supply chain network.”
‘Every deal is not Bofors deal’
After the court verdict, the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded an apology from the Congress and Rahul Gandhi for its allegations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the Rafale deal, PTI reported.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the matter was crystal clear since the beginning and that the Congress had used baseless allegations for political mileage. He accused Gandhi of maligning India’s image globally, ANI reported.
Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned till Monday after Opposition members in the Lok Sabha trooped into the Well of the House with placards, including some on an alleged scam in the Rafale deal. Members of the BJP also chanted slogans against the Congress and Gandhi, and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar sought an apology from them.
BJP President Amit Shah said the verdict was a “slap on the face of those who indulge in politics of lies”. He said his party was ready to have a facts-based discussion on the matter in Parliament for as long as the Congress wants, and that adjourning the House was not a solution.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said: “Every deal is not Bofors deal. It is the culture and tradition of Congress and its top leadership to mint money from such deals on the cost of country’s national security.”
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was the defence minister when the deal was signed, wrote on Twitter: “Satyamev Jayate [Truth alone triumphs]!” Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said all “campaigns against Rafale deal must end now because the country’s strategic interest is more important”.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the Supreme Court ruling upheld his party’s stand, that “corruption in Rafale deal” was not in the jurisdiction of the courts to decide upon, PTI reported. Only a joint parliamentary panel can look into the deal, he said, citing his own remark on November 15.
Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia claimed the verdict is not a setback for them as the issue is still alive in the “people’s court” and the party will continue to raise it in Parliament. Another party leader, Anand Sharma, said the order was “contradictory” as the court had said it was “not proper” to go into details of the deal. The court had not commented on several aspects, he claimed.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said the Supreme Court had said what it thought was right but political parties still want an inquiry by a joint parliamentary committee into the deal. Anand Sharma also called for the probe by a joint parliamentary panel.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who was among the petitioners, said the judgement was “totally wrong”, and that the “campaign will certainly not drop”. He said he may file a review petition.
However, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah wondered how the Rafale deal could remain an election issue any more. The Congress had criticised the deal heavily during its campaign in recently-held Assembly elections in five states. The party will now form government in three of them. General Elections are due to be held next summer.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said the ruling BJP and the Congress are “birds of a feather”, as they have both faced allegations of corruption in defence procurement deals, The Indian Express reported. “In such matters, the public has an apprehension that both the parties have been ‘ek hi thali ke chatte batte [birds of a feather]’ and neither is any less [corrupt] than the other,” she said.
Mayawati added that though the Supreme Court’s verdict will bring relief to the Centre, “fundamental reforms” and a “transparent policy” are necessary in defence deals. She called on the government to form a transparent policy after taking the Opposition into confidence.
Mayawati’s comments come days after her party extended support to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to form government.