Bengaluru: Accusing the NDA government of misleading the Supreme Court, senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Friday demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the multi-million dollar Rafale fighter deal.
“A defence deal worth Rs 60,000 crore that will leave the country with only 36 aircraft, as against 126 aircraft contracted for under the UPA, cannot go unchallenged or unexamined,” Chidambaram told reporters here at the party office.
“We are taking our cause to the people asking (them) to support the Congress party in its demand for a JPC to probe the Rafale deal.”
Chidambaram’s demand comes soon after party president Rahul Gandhi and senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge too sought a JPC probe.
The Supreme Court on December 14 had dismissed four petitions seeking a probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters in a fly-away condition from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, and said it could “not scrutinise each aspect of the acquisition”.
The Congress leader remarked that the apex court had rested its judgement on the basis that it did not have the jurisdiction to go into various aspects of a defence procurement.
“The Supreme Court accepted various statements and claims made by the government and declined to examine their correctness. In the process, the court has committed a grave error when it observed that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had examined the deal,” Chidambaram said.
The government has deliberately misled the court, as the CAG was yet to prepare its final report on the fighter jet deal, the former Finance Minister alleged.
The Congress leader also questioned the government’s intent to scrap the earlier negotiations for the fighter jets made by the previous UPA government and enter into a new agreement with Dassault.
The multi-million dollar deal the UPA government did not finalise with French aircraft maker envisaged city-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) manufacturing 108 of the 126 Rafale aircraft under licensed production, and 18 delivered in a fly-away condition to the Indian Air Force (IAF) from the French aerospace major.
Scrapping the previous deal at the price negotiations stage, the Narendra Modi-led government signed another deal in 2015 with the French government to buy outright 36 Rafale fighters in flying condition for an estimated $54 billion.