The defence ministry on Monday finally cleared its new blacklisting policy for “suspending or banning” arms contractors for wrongdoings and gave its go-ahead to proposals worth Rs 82,117 crore for buying fighter planes, tanks, helicopters and drones.
Sources did not disclose the details of the much-awaited blacklisting policy cleared by the defence acquisition council (DAC) but said it would be uploaded on the ministry’s website in a few days. The policy has been cleared at a time when firms such as Finmeccanica, Embraer and Rolls-Royce are embroiled in controversial deals.
HT had reported on August 19 that the policy contained new penalties that would debar firms from conducting business with the government for a period ranging from one to 10 years to remove corruption in the defence sector. These provisions would be invoked in case criminality is proved or there’s evidence of kickbacks being paid.
Sources said in case a defence firm is found guilty of paying bribes to bag an order, the duration of the investigation against it will be taken into account while prescribing the ban. However, if no criminality is found, the punishment will be less harsh. Firms guilty of procedural lapses, oversight or omission will be allowed to conduct business with the government if they agree to pay hefty fines.
The DAC, headed by defence minister Manohar Parrikar, has accorded acceptance of necessity (AoN) for buying 83 light combat aircraft for the Indian Air Force at a cost of Rs 50,025 crore, the sources said. The AoN is the first step towards buying a weapon or platform.
Sources said the council also set the ball rolling for buying 464 T-90 tanks for the army at a cost of Rs 13,488 crore, six additional regiments of Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launchers worth Rs 14,633 crore and 15 light combat helicopters for Rs 2,911 crore. The DAC also approved an army proposal to buy 598 mini unmanned aerial vehicles for Rs 1,100 crore.
Since coming to power in 2014, the NDA has focused on bringing out a blacklisting policy that strikes a balance between the need to punish defence contractors who may have violated the law and to keep the military battle-ready.