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Congress urges SC to recall Rafale verdict; bad losers, replies BJP

Last updated on: December 16, 2018 19:43 IST

The Congress, which was not a petitioner before the apex court, wants the Rafale deal to be referred to a JPC to go into the price arrived at by the BJP government versus the one negotiated by the previous UPA regime, as also how billionaire Anil Ambani's group with virtually no experience in manufacture of fighter jets was selected as an offset partner for the deal.

The Congress on Sunday urged the Supreme Court to recall its Rafale judgment and issue notices to the central government for contempt of court and perjury, alleging the Centre had provided false information to the apex court.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters in New Delhi, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma alleged that the government was guilty of committing breach of privilege of both houses of Parliament by claiming that the Comptroller and Auditor General report on Rafale aircraft pricing had been presented to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

The Congress leader also took a broad swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, saying "they should seek penance and take a dip in the holy Ganges instead".

 

"We demand that the Supreme Court immediately recall that judgment which is void. It would be in the interest of the dignity of the Supreme Court to do so, because this entire episode has dented the dignity of the highest court which cannot be allowed," he told reporters, adding that what has happened is unacceptable.

"It is important that the Supreme Court issues a notice of perjury to the government and the concerned officials and the law officers. The Supreme Court must also issue contempt notice to the government," he said.

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the pleas, saying there was no occasion to "really doubt the decision-making process" warranting setting aside of the defence contract for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

In its judgment, the court has made a reference to a CAG report on the aircraft deal. It has said the CAG report was examined by the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

But the Congress has insisted that the government presented "wrong facts" before the court during the hearing of pleas challenging the aircraft deal with France, which gave the government relief in the cases.

On Saturday, the Centre moved the Supreme Court seeking correction in the judgment, saying "misinterpretation" of its note has "resulted in a controversy in the public domain".

The Centre made it clear that it did not say the CAG report was examined by the PAC or a redacted portion was placed before Parliament. It clarified the note had said the government "has already shared" the price details with CAG, written in past tense and "is factually correct".

On Sunday, Sharma said there is no ground for the apex court to even consider the government's petition seeking to correct the judgment. He said the government's conduct and its credentials are certainly "under dark shadow" as it has in the process of "misleading" the court committed "a grave act of the breach of privilege of the Parliament which is Sovereign".

"The Government, therefore, is guilty of breaching the privileges of all the members of Parliament by having claimed that the CAG has examined and given its report which has been further scrutinized by the PAC, which it has given...all of this is false," he said.

The Congress leader said two processes must follow now and "we have urged the Supreme Court that it has become imperative without any delay to recall and issue the notices to the government. The Parliament is in session and the government surely is in the dock for having committed a grave breach of privilege of not only the PAC, but both the houses of the Indian Parliament."

He said the Congress has been of this consistent view that the Supreme Court is not the right forum to investigate the issues related to the Rafale deal, to probe, which it has not done and the court itself has said so.

"The Supreme Court judgment is not only self contradictory, but we are shocked to find factual inaccuracies and the aversions which were made, submissions of the government were false," he said.

Sharma said the judgment is based on the premise that the government had shared the pricing details with the CAG, which submitted the report through the Public Accounts Committee and portions of that have been shared with Parliament and thus in public domain.

"There has been no CAG report," he said, adding Congress leaders had met the CAG a few months ago demanding a "forensic audit" of the global tender for the Rafale aircraft deal.

The former union minister said it is mandatory for the CAG to give the report to Parliament, but no such report has been received by Parliament.

He said what has happened is "unprecedented" and the government's curative petition filed on Saturday "adds insult to the injury caused".

'Congress is manufacturing further lies about Rafale verdict'

Ruling out referring the Rafale deal to a parliamentary panel, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley launched a blistering attack on the Congress, calling it "bad losers" and said the Comptroller and Auditor General 's view of the deal is not relevant after the Supreme Court's clean chit.

With the first four days of winter session of Parliament washed out over various protests, Jaitley said the opposition Congress will prefer disruptions over discussion on Rafale during the remainder of the session.

The Congress, which was not a petitioner before the apex court, wants the Rafale deal to be referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee to go into the price arrived at by the BJP government versus the one negotiated by the previous UPA regime, as also how billionaire Anil Ambani's group with virtually no experience in manufacture of fighter jets was selected as an offset partner for the deal.

"After the Supreme Court has spoken the last word, it gets legitimacy. A political body can never come to a finding contrary to what the court has said," Jaitley wrote in a Facebook blog, titled 'Rafale - Lies, Shortlived lies and now further lies?'.

On the Congress claiming 'ambiguity' in the Supreme Court judgment that said the deal has been examined by the CAG and is now before Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, Jaitley said defence transactions go to the CAG for an audit review, which then are referred to the PAC.

"This was factually and accurately stated by the government before the Court. The audit review of Rafale is pending before the CAG. All facts are shared with it. When its report is out, it will go to the PAC. Notwithstanding this factually correct statement made, if an ambiguity has emerged in the court order, the correct course is for anyone to apply/mention before the court and have it corrected," he said.

The correct picture has been presented to court and it must now be left to the wisdom of the court to state at which stage the CAG review is pending.

"The CAG review is not relevant to the final findings on procedure, pricing and offset suppliers. But bad losers never accept the truth. Having failed in multiple lies they have now started an innuendo about the Judgement," he said.

Jaitley said the Congress, having failed in their initial falsehood, is now "manufacturing further lies about the Judgement."

"On facts it lied. The judgement of the Supreme Court conclusively establishes the Congress party's vulnerabilities in a discussion on defence transactions.

"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," he wrote.

The finance minister, who had alongside the defence minister led a spirited counter-attack against the Congress on Friday post the Supreme Court ruling, said the opponents of the Rafale deal had a choice of forum to present their side, and they chose the Supreme Court.

"The Court conducts a judicial review, it is a non-partisan, independent and a fair Constitutional authority. The Court's verdict is final. It can't be reviewed by anyone except by the Court itself," he said. 

Ruling out setting up a JPC to go into the deal, Jaitley said, "How can a Parliamentary Committee go into the correctness or otherwise to what the Court has said. Is a Committee of Politicians both legally and in terms of human resources capable of reviewing issues already decided by the Supreme Court?"

"On areas such as procedure, offset suppliers and pricing, can a Parliamentary Committee take a different view of what the Court has said?," he said, asking if a contract be breached, nation's security be compromised and the pricing data be made available to Parliament or its panel.

He asked what was the experience of JPC when it took up the Bofors deal -- the only occasion when it investigated a defence transaction.

"The B. Shankaranand Committee in 1987-88 went into the Bofors transaction. Since Parliamentarians are always split on party lines, it came out with a finding that no kickbacks were paid and the monies paid to the middlemen were 'winding up' charges.

"At that time only Win Chaddha appeared to be a middlemen. But then others including Ottavio Quattrocchi, whose bank accounts got detected subsequently, were not entitled to any winding up charges," he wrote.

Rafale, he said, is a combat aircraft with its weaponry required to improve the strike ability of the Indian Air Force.

"As a political opponent Rahul Gandhi's opposition to the deal was a desperate attempt. It was the UPA Government which had shortlisted the Rafale as it was technically the best and the cheapest," he said.

Jaitley also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an inter-governmental agreement, struck a deal with the French government to further improve the terms and conditions, including the prices on which the UPA had agreed.

He claimed Gandhi's opposition was because Modi has run the cleanest ever government in recent Indian history.

"Secondly, Rahul Gandhi has the burden of a stigmatised legacy which was tainted by Bofors. He was desperate trying to bring an 'immoral equivalence' between Rafale and Bofors. But Rafale did not have middlemen, no kickbacks and obviously no Ottavio Quattrocchi," he said.?

"Thirdly, with international cooperation and Governmental cooperation, scamsters of the UPA Government are now being extradited into India. There is obviously a scare of who will talk how much," he said.

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