Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday said a review of the Rafale deal by the Comptroller and Auditor General would not be relevant to the final conclusions about the procedure, pricing and offset suppliers related to the agreement. He called the Congress party, which had made allegations against the deal, a “bad loser”.
On Friday, the Supreme Court had rejected all petitions seeking an inquiry into the procurement of Rafale fighter jets from France. The court said it was satisfied that the process for procurement had been complied with. One argument in the judgement, however, was that a report on the deal prepared by the CAG had been examined by a Parliamentary panel. The Congress pointed out that the report does not exist yet. The party questioned the basis of the judgement and accused the government of misleading the court.
In a Facebook post on Sunday, Jaitley said that defence transactions go to the CAG for a review and are then referred to the Public Accounts Committee, whose reports are placed before the Parliament. An audit review is pending before the CAG, and when its report comes, it will be sent to the Public Accounts Committee, he said. However, the CAG review is not relevant to the final findings, Jaitley said.
“But bad losers never accept the truth,” Jaitley said in his post. “Having failed in multiple lies they have now started an innuendo about the judgement. Having failed in their initial falsehood, the Congress is now manufacturing further lies about the judgement.”
The minister said that the government had given accurate information to the judges, and had also filed an application with the court now that there was a factual error. “It must now be left to the wisdom of the Court to state at which stage the CAG review is pending,” Jaitley said.
On Saturday, the Centre had asked the Supreme Court to make a correction in two sentences in the judgement. The Centre said the court’s usage of the words “has been” instead of “is” while referring to the Public Accounts Committee’s examination of the CAG report was misleading. The usage of the word “is”, the Centre claimed, would have denoted that the procedure “will be followed as and when the CAG report is ready”.
Jaitley rules out JPC probe
Arun Jaitley also called the Congress’ demand for an inquiry by a Joint Parliamentary Committee misconceived. “How can a Parliamentary Committee go into the correctness or otherwise to what the Court has said,” he asked. “Is a committee of politicians both legally and in terms of human resources capable of reviewing issues already decided by the Supreme Court?”
“After the Supreme Court has spoken the last word, it gets legitimacy,” said Jaitley. “A political body can never come to a finding contrary to what the Court has said.”
Jaitley said he was certain that the Congress would prefer “disruptions over discussions” on the Rafale deal during the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. “On facts it lied. The judgement of the Supreme Court conclusively establishes the Congress Party’s vulnerabilities in a discussion on defence transactions,” Jaitley said. “It will be a great opportunity to remind the nation of the legacy of the Congress Party and its defence acquisitions – a great opportunity indeed for some of us to speak.”
PAC may not summon auditors over report
A majority of members of the Public Accounts Committee, including those from the Opposition parties, are not in favour of chairperson Mallikarjun Kharge’s proposal to summon the attorney general and the Comptroller and Auditor General over the public auditor’s report on the Rafale deal, PTI reported.
Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartuhari Mahtab said the Public Accounts Committee chairman can call the attorney general and the auditor general in his personal capacity but not before the entire panel as the Rafale deal was not part of its agenda for 2018-’19. The CAG report on the deal has not yet been placed before the panel, he said, adding that the statements of the two officials cannot be recorded if they are called in a personal capacity.
Telugu Desam Party MP CM Ramesh said the officials can be summoned only after the report is tabled in Parliament.
“The apex court has categorically given a clean chit to the government on the Rafale deal, and it is unfortunate that Congress and a seasoned politician like Kharge are politicising this sensitive issue of national security,” said BJP MP Anurag Thakur.