After SC verdict, Modi govt calls Rafale jet deal allegations 'fiction'

Arun Jaitley and Nirmala Sithraman at a conference on SC’s verdict on Rafale (Photo: Dalip Kumar)
With the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday dismissing pleas challenging the Rafale fighter jet deal, the government dismissed all allegation of corruption as “fiction writing”. “The Rafale deal has protected both security and commercial interest of India. Allegations on Rafale are fiction writing that was compromising national security,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said.

The SC decision was a shot in the arm for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), after it lost Assembly elections in three north Indian states. Amit Shah, BJP president, as well as other senior leaders aimed barbs at the Opposition, especially Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

The Opposition also hit back, claiming that the government had misled the court by telling it that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had looked into the pricing details of the fighter jets, and that the CAG’s report had been examined by a public accounts committee (PAC). A redacted version of this was in the public domain.

PAC Chairman Mallikarjun Kharge said he was yet to see any such CAG report.

On the front foot

Referring to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, Jaitley said “disrupters” had lost on all counts. Falsehood is bound to fall apart and it has, the FM said. “If honest deals are questioned, then civil servants and armed forces will think twice before undertaking such a process in future.”
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman addressed a press conference along with Jaitley. She said any controversy around the Rafale deal was now laid to rest.
To a question about the Congress demand of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the deal, Jaitley said only a judicial body could carry out such an investigation. A JPC could work on partisan lines as well.

Opposition response

By evening, the Opposition leaders were demanding a JPC probe again, claiming there were factual inaccuracies in the judgment. They also asked the government to produce the CAG report.

Addressing a press conference with Kharge by his side, Rahul Gandhi read out paragraph 25 of the court order, which referred to the CAG report.
“This is the foundation of the judgment. Please ask Khargeji whether the CAG report reached the committee,” Rahul Gandhi said. Kharge said he also asked the deputy CAG about the report, who said he was equally oblivious on the issue. “This is an untruth,” Kharge said.

Congress leaders said they would raise the issue in Parliament on Monday. Congress Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the nation needed to know who “perpetrated such a huge fraud to hoodwink on the Supreme Court” by convincing it about a non-existent report.

Govt hits back

Almost all senior ministers, however, were out all guns blazing. Referring to Rahul Gandhi, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “He (Rahul Gandhi) crossed all limits of propriety, decency and probity in public life by almost condemning the Supreme Court. What does he mean? Is he above the Supreme Court?” He also took this opportunity to aim barbs at Rahul Gandhi over dynasty politics.

Business Standard is now on Telegram.
For insightful reports and views on business, markets, politics and other issues, subscribe to our official Telegram channel