Cong team meets CVC on Rafale deal demands registration of corruption case

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     New Delhi, Sep 24 (PTI) The Congress Monday petitioned the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), demanding the registration of a case into the alleged corruption in the Rafale fighter jets deal and seize all documents.
    The Congress also said that it was not for "irreversibility" of the Rafale deal as the matter was being probed, and if corruption is found at a later date, Dassault Aviation, the makers of the aircraft, be warned about the consequences.
     A delegation of senior Congress leaders met the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K V Chowdary and submitted a detailed memorandum, accusing the government of causing loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by bypassing state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in favour of some businessman "friends" for offset contract.
    The meeting comes days after a Congress delegation met the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and urged the apex auditor to prepare a report on the alleged irregularities in the deal and present it in Parliament.
    Congress leader Anand Sharma said, "The government has been lying and hiding. We have, therefore, demanded the CVC to take cognizance, to seize all files and documents and to register an FIR."
    He sought registration of a case and asked the CVC to step in and "act immediately" as there were fears that after "this big scam", the government would try and destroy all evidence, and the files and documents need to be taken into custody.
    Party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said at a press conference that the party was not against the Rafale aircraft as such, but if corruption was detected, the deal would either have to be cancelled or the jets bought at a fresh price.
    "At least start the probe. How can you allow corruption and still buy at the same price. You will have to either cancel the deal or buy the jets a fresh price. At least, give a notice, give a warning, seize the documents and start the probe," he told reporters.
    "We never had objections with the Rafale aircraft as a fighter jet. We have said that you should put it on warning, and tell them that the deal is pending the outcome of the investigation. In any case, the documents need to be freezed immediately," Singhvi added.
    He said national security was of prime concern to the Congress, but "if you get clear formal proof of corruption, then there is no doubt that either you will have to cancel the deal or you will have to buy it at a different price. It cannot happen that you will allow corruption as well as find mistakes, then why a probe. At least, first give them a notice, give a warning to Dassault and start an inquiry."
    Singhvi said the 'Rafale saga' gets murkier by the minute and "like quicksand, it sucks the government into a quagmire each time the government tries to respond or say something and each time it is exposes the prevarication of the Government more and more".
    "Rafale scam has now emerged as India's biggest defence scam. Tracks of corruption are getting unravelled by the day with repeated disclosures getting no answers from the Defence Ministry of the Government of the day. The stench of corruption and cronyism in the Rafale deal is nauseating, requiring urgent intervention by your goodself," the Congress memorandum to the CVC said.
    The memorandum said that as per law, the government is bound to provide full information to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), "entire deal, its contours, nature of contract, absence of favouritism, corruption, crony capitalism, violation of law and procedures and the principles of level playing field are part of CVC's domain to examine and to return a finding".
    "The government is bound to disclose the price of 36 aircraft to scrutiny by CVC in light of the serious allegations of corruption and loss of money to public exchequer.
    "We, therefore, request the CVC to undertake its statutory duty by examining record threadbare, so that corruption, crony capitalism, violation of law and procedure and loss to public exchequer is brought out as the earliest," it further said.
    The delegation comprised senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Anand Sharma, Kapil Sibal, Randeep Singh Surjewala, Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha, Parmod Tiwari and Pranav Jha.
    Terming it as the century's "biggest scam", Sharma said the decision of the deal was taken by the prime minister and the Cabinet Committee on Security was not informed about it.
    "We told the CVC that no one was informed about the decision, including the defence chief, HAL chief or Air Force chief. The cost has been increased by 300 per cent and it is clear from (then French president Francois) Hollande and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's joint statement that it is the same aircraft that was going to be initially purchased. We expect the CVC to take cognisance of it," he told reporters.
    The Congress has alleged that the fresh deal for Rafale fighter jets was inked by the Narendra Modi dispensation at a cost much higher than what was negotiated by the UPA government. It also alleged that the state exchequer incurred a loss of Rs 41,000 crore due to the deal.
    It also accused the government of compromising national security, while also ignoring public-sector HAL to "favour" Reliance Defence.
    The Rafale controversy took a turn last week after former French president Francois Hollande claimed that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence's name as the offset partner for Dassault Aviation. PTI UZM/SKC IJT