Congress gives privilege notices against PM and defence minister over Rafale deal

The notices were given over the statements made by Modi and Sitharaman in Lok Sabha during the debate on the no-confidence motion on July 20.

india Updated: Jul 24, 2018 23:00 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Congress,Privilege motion,Notice
Sources said the notices were moved by Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Veerappa Moily, K V Thomas, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajiv Satav.(PTI FIle Photo)

The Congress on Tuesday served notices for breach of privilege against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman for “misleading” the Lok Sabha on the Rafale deal during a debate in the House on the no-confidence motion against the government on July 20, following through on its threat to do so, and further raising the pitch of its battle with the government on the deal.

The notices, addressed to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, were given by Congress members Mallikarjun Kharge, M Veerappa Moily, KV Thomas, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajiv Satav.

The Congress party’s notice comes three days after BJP members, Nishikant Dubey, Anurag Thakur, Dushyant Singh and Prahlad Joshi, submitted a similar notice to the Speaker against the Congress chief, accusing him of “misleading” Parliament by making “false” allegations against the Prime Minister and the defence minister during the no-trust vote debate.

In his notice, Kharge alleged that the Prime Minister’s claim on transparency in the Rafale deal is “factually incorrect, untrue and deliberately made with the intention to mislead” the House.

“The Prime minister has along with the defence minister deliberately misled the House; it is, therefore, requested that this notice of breach of privilege be accepted and referred to the privilege committee for further proceedings,” he said.

In his notice against Sitharaman, Kharge said, “The minister knowingly and intentionally misled Parliament by withholding the information that the government is obliged to reveal to Parliament.”

The BJP termed the Congress’ move as “boastful chest thumping after misleading” Parliament and the country on the Rafale deal, maintaining that Congress president Rahul Gandhi wants details of the aircraft weaponry be made public, which it cannot be done in the national interest.

The Congress has been asking the government to reveal the price of each fighter aircraft and the total amount of the Rafale deal, alleging that the Modi government struck the deal to purchase 36 aircraft at a higher cost than what the United Progressive Alliance government had negotiated with France.

However, the Modi government has maintained that the price cannot be revealed, citing a secrecy clause in the agreement between India and France.

On Monday, the Congress and the government exchanged more fire over the deal.

The main opposition party said it will launch a nationwide campaign on the issue.

On Tuesday, KV Thomas (Congress MP from Ernakulam) raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.

Participating in a debate on Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, Thomas questioned the “secrecy” behind not revealing the cost.

“The Prime Minister promised clean and transparent governance. It (the deal) will (anyway) come under the scrutiny of the Comptroller and Auditor General. The cost will also be revealed when it comes before the Public Accounts Committee. People have the right to know about the cost,” he said.

The notices given by the Congress members also mentioned that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, as per the Constitution, are collectively accountable to Parliament and through it to the people of the country.

“The Prime Minister in his speech endorsed the defence minister’s claims, which contradicted the reply of his minister of state for defence in Lok Sabha on November 18, 2016 and in Rajya Sabha on March 19, 2018,” the notice said.

BJP’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha Anurag Thakur said: “This agreement is between two nations and both the countries have honoured the secrecy clause by not disclosing the details of the agreement.” The BJP leader said India’s position was also articulated by the French government through a written statement, which also contradicted Gandhi’s claim in Parliament that the French had no problem with the details being made public.

Thakur said the BJP has already moved a privilege notice against the Congress president for making unsubstantiated allegations regarding the deal.

First Published: Jul 24, 2018 19:36 IST