The Congress on Saturday turned the heat on Narendra Modi government for “lying and misleading” the Supreme Court leading to “factual bloomers” in the Rafale judgment even as the Centre scampered to the top court seeking “correction of the errors” in the verdict.
A day after the apex court, relying on “a CAG report”, dismissed multiple petitions seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in the deal, the Congress tore into the Modi government, saying “no portion of the CAG report has been placed before Parliament or was in the public domain”.
Amidst the Congress pressing for summoning of the Attorney General and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament in this connection, the Centre moved an application before the top court seeking “correction of errors in the judgment” that it claimed “occurred, perhaps, on account of a misinterpretation”.
At the centre of controversy is paragraph 25 of the judgment in which Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi-led bench observed: “The pricing details have, however, been shared with the CAG and the CAG report has been examined by the PAC. Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament and is in public domain.”
Intensifying the attack, senior Congress leader and PAC Chairman Mallikarjun Kharge said he will press for summoning the Attorney General and the CAG to ask them when was the public auditor’s report tabled and when did the PAC examine it.
“The government lied in the court that the CAG report was presented in the House and in PAC,” said Kharge, adding that the CAG will be questioned as to when was the report presented, when was it accepted, when was it brought to PAC, when was the evidence taken and when was it presented in Parliament.
Subsequently, addressing a media conference here, Congress leader and advocate Kapil Sibal said the Supreme Court verdict has “factual bloomers” for which the Modi-led Centre is responsible.
“If you give wrong facts to the court and on that basis, the court makes factual assertions, in that case it’s the government which is responsible,” said Sibal and asserted that the apex court is neither the right forum to examine the “corruption” in the deal nor the verdict is a “clean chit” for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre.
“The Supreme Court can’t examine all the file notings or examine witnesses on oath including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who needs to be questioned as also defence ministry officials.
“How can the government claim that the deal is clean and there is no corruption? The court nowhere said that,” Sibal said iterating that only a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe can unearth the “corruption and crony capitalism” in the deal.
Facing the opposition’s heat, the Centre, through Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, pleaded with the top court to rectify the errors in the paragraph 25 of judgment, which it claimed “occurred on account of misinterpretation” and “resulted in a controversy in the public domain”.
The Centre said the statements (in para 25 of the judgment) appear to have been based on the note, along with the pricing details, submitted by the Union of India to the court in compliance with the court’s Oct 31 direction.
While maintaining that it is “factually correct” that the government shared the price details with the CAG, the Centre added that the second part of the sentence in the judgment, with regard to the PAC, is to the effect that “the report of the CAG is examined by the PAC. Only a redacted version of the report is placed before the Parliament and in public domain”.
“However, in the judgment, the reference to the word ‘is’ has been replaced with the words ‘has been’, and the sentence in the judgment (with regard to PAC) reads ‘the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee’.”
The government maintained that its submission to the effect that the report to the CAG “is” examined by the PAC, was a description of the procedure which is followed in the normal course in regard to reports of the CAG.
It pleaded that the words “report on the CAG is examined by the PAC. Only a redacted version is placed before parliament and public domain” may be substituted in place of “and the report of the CAG has been examined by the PAC. Only a redacted portion of the report has been placed before Parliament and is in public domain”.
Meanwhile, the BJP continued its attack on the Congress saying the grand old party is trying to “sabotage India’s security preparedness by raking up the Rafale deal issue, despite the Supreme Court ruling that there is no need for a probe”.
“This is nothing but sabotage of our security preparedness. We have already said that (Congress President) Rahul Gandhi owes an apology to the nation, to the defence forces and to the Lok Sabha also,” Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar told the media in Panaji.