Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday questioned the basis of the Supreme Court judgement on the Rafale fighter jet deal, alleging that a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India mentioned in the judgement does not exist.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court refused to order a probe into the Rafale agreement with France and stated that the material on record did not show any favouritism.
Gandhi read out a paragraph from the judgement which cited a CAG report on the deal. The court had said the pricing details of the aircraft was provided to the CAG and that this CAG report had been examined by the Public Accounts Committee and a redacted portion placed before Parliament.
“Where is this report of the CAG? Show it to us if it exists,” said Gandhi, flanked by Public Accounts Committee chairperson Mallikarjuna Kharge.
Kharge said following the judgement, he had inquired with the office of the CAG and that the claim of such a report being examined by the Public Accounts Committee was “untrue”. “When the CAG does not have the report, it cannot come to the PAC,” he said. “When we get the report we do not make copies, we forward it to Parliament. The law says that nobody can speak about the report until it is presented in Parliament.”
“When somebody lies, it is always exposed somewhere, at some time,” Gandhi said. “The government should show us the CAG report. They should at least show it to the chairperson of the PAC. Or maybe a different PAC is running in a different Parliament, maybe in Parliament of France. It is possible that Modi has constituted his own PAC in the Prime Minister’s Office.”
“We regularly hold press conferences,” the Congress president said. “But the prime minister never does so, because he does not want to be exposed before the country’s media.”
“There has been a theft of Rs 30,000 crore,” Gandhi alleged. “Farmers, in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, we are going to waive your loans. The money these thieves have stolen is your money. The whole country knows that the chowkidaar [Modi] is a thief. The prime minister of India is a friend of Anil Ambani and he has helped him commit theft.”
“Modiji, you can hide and run as much as you want,” Gandhi added. “The day there is an inquiry into the Rafale deal, two names will emerge – Narendra Modi, Anil Ambani.”
Earlier in the day, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie expressed their disappointment with the Supreme Court’s decision to reject their plea for an investigation into India’s Rafale jet deal with French company Dassault Aviation.
The petitioners claimed that the top court relied on information submitted by the government that is “neither on record nor factually correct”. “The court’s judgement today does not even address the documented facts stated in our petition or even deal with our main prayer seeking an investigation,” they said.
A statement issued by Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie said they are “disappointed that the court has taken a conservative view of judicial review in cases of defence deal corruption involving high functionaries”. The petitioners said they were shocked that the top court’s judgement was based on “completely false information about the Comptroller and Auditor General report”.
The petitioners said they were shocked that the top court accepted industrialist Mukesh Ambanis Reliance Industries Limited as “parent company” of his brother Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
Besides the plea filed by Shourie, Sinha and Bhushan, lawyer ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda and Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh had also filed petitions against the deal. On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed all petitions, and said perceptions of individuals cannot form the basis of judicial interference.
The Congress has accused the government of overpaying for the fighter aircraft and claimed that the deal has benefited Ambani. 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.
The government has refused to reveal the per-plane price that it has negotiated in the deal, citing a secrecy agreement with France.
In an affidavit submitted in the court, the Indian government said that the procurement process laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure, 2013, had been followed while finalising the deal. Dassault’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier has repeatedly claimed that his company had chosen Ambani’s Reliance Defence to be one of its offset partners and the Indian government had not the dictated the choice.