Rejecting allegations that it suppressed material facts and misled the Supreme Court in the Rafale jet purchase matter, the Centre Thursday said that the application for perjury filed by the review petitioners was “completely misconceived” and that their stand was “vacillating and self-contradictory”.
In a fresh affidavit filed in the apex court in response to the perjury application by former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, the government “denied” that it “had told untruths regarding decision-making process and suppressed crucial information”.
It added that “on facts as well, the contention of the petitioners” that government officials “have made false statements and suppressed evidence while submitting information on ‘decision-making process’, ‘offsets’ and ‘pricing’ pursuant to orders passed by this court, is completely false, baseless and an attempt to intimidate government servants from performing their duty… on this ground alone, the application is liable to be dismissed”.
The court is due to hear Friday petitions seeking review of its December 14, 2018 judgment upholding the deal for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
The affidavit, filed by the Director General (Acquisition) in the Ministry of Defence, said that “there is no act of perjury involved in the submissions made before the Supreme Court as the submissions are based on records”.
And that “all the averments made before the Supreme Court were based on (a) the final decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and the CCS note which formed the basis of this decision, (b) final decisions by the Raksha Mantri (RM) and Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), (c) provisions in defence procurement procedure and (d) inputs received from the Indian Air Force and other constituent offices of the Ministry of Defence”.
The affidavit alleged that petitioners were “deliberately providing incomplete and selective information” and altering the sequence of events of procurement process to misled the apex court and the public.
On the “vacillating” stand of the petitioners, the affidavit said they had earlier told the court that “the CAG (Comptroller and Audit General) ought to examine the whole issue, and now that the CAG has examined the latter in great detail by going into voluminous files and records made available by the Ministry of Defence and ruled out any irregularity in various aspects of the deal and has submitted its report…the petitioners have now taken a different stand that the information/material provided by the answering respondent is untrue and material facts have been suppressed”.
The government submitted that “the concerns raised by members of the INT (Indian Negotiating Team) were deliberated and addressed while ensuring utmost integrity and transparency in the process, allowing opinions to be freely expressed, recorded, discussed and if necessary modified. Aspects pertaining to the responsibility and obligations of French government, pricing, delivery schedule, maintenance terms, offsets, IGA terms etc were discussed and negotiated during these meetings”.
In an affidavit filed in the matter on May 4, the Centre said that the Prime Minister’s Office had been “monitoring…the progress” of the “Government to Government” deal for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and that the same “cannot not be construed as interference or parallel negotiations”.
Meanwhile, in a rejoinder filed in response to the government’s May 4 affidavit, the review petitioners said “it is clear that the government misled the court on various counts in the notes that were submitted in a sealed cover” and added that it had “suppressed material and relevant information from the court and obtained the impugned judgement on the basis of fraud played upon the court by the government.”
The petitioners attacked the CAG report saying it was silent on several crucial aspects.
The report “is silent on parallel negotiations” and “the dropping of standard clauses meant to ensure probity and transparency in every procurement,” the affidavit said, adding, the “CAG report does not address the issue of offsets and proposes to do a separate audit for the same”.
It also “concedes that waiver of bank guarantees was a saving for Dassault and yet fails to account for impact of the same when stating that the 36 aircraft procurement was 2.86 per cent cheaper that the 126 aircraft procurement. The INT domain experts had calculated the impact of bank guarantee at 574 million Euros”, the affidavit contended.
The rejoinder said that “even now the government is not disclosing that contrary to what was submitted in the sealed covers, the Cabinet Committee on Security met once again in the month of September 2016 to inter alia drop standard clauses which are meant to ensure probity, transparency and check corruption”.
“The clauses pertain to the use of undue influence, agents/agency commission and access to books of accounts of the individual suppliers. No basis has been given as to why these basic measures of prudence were dropped,” it added.