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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

CAG’s audit report into purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets tabled in Rajya Sabha

The CAG report on Rafale deal has become the latest point of confrontation between the government and the opposition, with the Congress citing “conflict of interest”.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2019 11:44 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The triple talaq bill and a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) into 11 defence deals, including that for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, are likely to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.
The triple talaq bill and a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) into 11 defence deals, including that for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, are likely to be tabled in Parliament on Wednesday. (Sonu Mehta/HT File PHOTO)
         

The government on Wednesday tabled in Rajya Sabha a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) into 11 defence deals, including that for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, amid a sparring contest between Congress and the government over the issue.

The CAG report has become the latest point of confrontation between the government and the opposition, with the Congress citing “conflict of interest”. The party said Rajiv Mehrishi, the current CAG of India, was part of the decision making the process for the Rafale deal. Mehrishi was the finance secretary when the Rafale deal was signed.

The ruling BJP, in turn, accused the Congress of attacking the institution of the CAG. Congress president Rahul Gandhi has defended his party’s stand.

“We are not questioning the institution. But the gentleman who is preparing CAG report was part of this decision-making process,” Rahul Gandhi said at an earlier press conference.

Read| No bank clauses in government-to-government deals like Rafale: IAF

The Hindustan Times has learnt that the report may have side-stepped the controversial offset aspect of the Rafale deal, the opposition alleges that the old deal was scrapped and a new one signed, so as to benefit Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence through an offset deal (a charge denied by all stakeholders), which will be part of a separate report that deals with offset deals across all three defence services.

“The draft report on the offset deals is ready and it has been sent to the ministry of defence for its comments, which are awaited. Once the comments are received, the final report will be prepared. The final audit report on offset deals may come after the elections,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.

According to officials cited in the first instance, the report has been divided into two sections — one pertaining to 10 acquisitions and the second, exclusively on Rafale.

Also read| CAG compares Rafale deal with similar aircraft offers

The scrapping of the 126 aircraft deal, initiated during the previous United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) regime, by the NDA has become controversial. The opposition, led by the Congress, alleges that the new price is much higher than the old one and that due process wasn’t followed (apart from the charge regarding offsets).

The Rafale issue was even raised before the Supreme Court, which did not find any substance in the allegations.

However, the issue has continued to rock Parliament with Rahul Gandhi directly accusing the Prime Minister of benefiting industrialist Anil Ambani. The government says it has managed to get the basic jet at a lower cost, and that all procedures were followed.

Also read| ‘Will scrap triple talaq law if we come to power’, says Congress; BJP hits back

A CAG official explained that the comparative analysis has been done in percentage terms; the actual comparative price of the jet was mentioned in the report but was redacted, this person added on condition of anonymity.

“The redaction has been done on the request of the defence ministry which cited national security as well as the confidentiality clause of the deal with the French government. There have been many other CAG reports where sensitive information has been redacted earlier too,” added the CAG official.

The Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government, which is also keen to get parliamentary approval for the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, will table it in the Rajya Sabha later in the day.

The triple talaq bill, which criminalises the Muslim practice with a provision of three years imprisonment to the husband, was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 27 last year with 245 votes in favour and 11 against it.

The opposition parties now want the bill to be sent to the Select Committee of Parliament for further vetting, a demand rejected by the Centre. However, an ordinance was re-promulgated in January this year as the revised bill could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha where the government lacks a majority.

The issue of triple talaq was taken up in Parliament in August last year after the practice that allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering “talaq” three times in quick succession was ruled as “unconstitutional” by a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court.

First Published: Feb 13, 2019 09:19 IST

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