The Centre to the Supreme Court has ruled out the registration of a first information report in the Rafale fighter jet agreement, and an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation, PTI reported on Sunday.
In its 39-page written submission, the Centre, which has sought the dismissal of petitions seeking review of the court’s December 14 verdict that ruled out a CBI investigation in the case, said the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the matter had belied the petitioners’ main arguments regarding the alleged exorbitant price of the jets. The review petitions have been filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, advocate Prashant Bhushan, Aam Aadmi Party lawmaker Sanjay Singh, and lawyer Vineet Dhandha.
“In fact, the CAG has held that the 36 Rafale aircraft deal is 2.86% lower than the audit aligned price and in addition, there would be benefits on account of non-firm and fixed price,” The Hindu quoted from the Centre’s submission. “This itself negates the case of the petitioners of a prima facie criminal offence having been committed due to the payment of higher prices.”
The government denied misleading the court into believing that the auditor’s report had been submitted in Parliament before the December 14 verdict. The report was filed in Parliament only on February 15, the petitioners have told the court. They have said the “untruths” amounted to “wholesale fraud”, and sought perjury action against unknown government officials for allegedly misleading the court. The Centre said the allegation was “completely false and preposterous”, and claimed that the petitioners had created a “big hue and cry” about a “misunderstanding of language”.
The petitioners, in their written submissions to the court, claimed the Centre’s position that an investigation into the deal would compromise national security was “self-serving”. They pointed out that inquiries had been carried out in the Bofors case, the French Scorpene case, and the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter scam.
In March, the government had urged the court to dismiss the review petitions. However, on April 10, the Supreme Court said it would go ahead with the hearings even if the petitions were based on stolen and classified documents, according to the government. Earlier this month, the Centre told the Supreme Court in another affidavit that the decision of the Prime Minister’s Office to monitor the Rafale jet deal cannot be construed as interference as implied by a media report.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has accused Narendra Modi of treason and alleged that he had acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani in the deal. Gandhi has used the phrase “chowkidar chor hai [the watchman is a thief]” to accuse Modi of corruption.
The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on the review petitions on May 10.