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Govt. denies perjury charge in Rafale case

A Rafale jet performing, during the AERO INDIA 2019 at IAF station Yelahanka, in Bengaluru. File   | Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Rubbishing the charge of perjury, the government on Thursday said the contents of briefs and responses made in the Supreme Court in the Rafale fighter purchase case were “finalised after extensive deliberations at the highest levels in government after a series of meetings”.

In a reply affidavit filed in the court, the Centre said its averments in court were based on the final decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security. The submissions were based on the final decisions of the Defence Acquisition Council, the Defence Minister, provisions in the Defence Procurement Procedure and inputs received from the Air Force and the Ministry of Defence. These had endeavoured to bring out the final conclusions of the process, which led to the signing of the Inter-Governmental Agreement with France, the government said.

The government played down the “mismatch” between the December 14, 2018, judgment of the court, upholding the deal on the basis of a “non-existent” Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, and unsigned confidential notes filed by the Centre in the court. “The mismatch is not a substantial error,” the government argued.

‘No fault found’

After all, it said, the CAG report had “ultimately not found any fault either in the decision-making process or in the pricing” for the procurement of 36 Rafale jets from France.

It said that instead of quoting the CAG report, which has a constitutional mandate to scrutinise the procurement and took almost two years to audit and present its report on February 13, 2019, the petitioners continued to rely on selective media leaks to mislead the court.

The petition for perjury, which was filed on February 15, chose to totally ignore the findings of the CAG report, presented on February 13, which said the entire package price of the 36 Rafale jets procurement is 2.86% lower than the audit aligned price compared to the earlier deal for MMRCA.

The government said it had already filed an application in court to correct the December 14 Rafale judgment. In this application, the government claimed the judgment had erred in English grammar to “misinterpret” information submitted to it in the cover note.

The government said the petitioners had relied on selective leaks in the media, from ministry files on opinions expressed by individual or a group of officers. They have given the court a “selective and incomplete picture on matters related to national security and defence”, the Centre claimed.

Denying any untruth or suppression of information in the court, the government said media reports cannot form the basis of perjury proceedings.

The government was replying to a perjury application filed by review petitioners, including former union ministers —Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie — and senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, against government officials who have “misled” the court about facts in the 36 Rafale jets deal through unsigned confidential notes.

Govt. denies perjury charge in Rafale case
 

‘Substantial error’

The petitioners contended that the December 14 judgment based on a hypothetical CAG report was not merely a “clerical or arithmetical slip” but a substantial error.

They had also questioned the judgment’s dismissal of lack of sovereign guarantee from the French government’s side as a “minor deviation”.

In a rejoinder filed, the review petitioners asked how the government could have “predicted” that the CAG report would redact the Rafale pricing details.

The CAG report is also silent on the aspect of the Prime Minister's announcement of the deal in Paris in April 2015 when the Acceptance of Necessity of the procurement was signed only in May 2015.


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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 5:07:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/govt-denies-perjury-charge-in-rafale-case/article27085095.ece

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