Exposed on the Rafale deal, the Narendra Modi government now shoots from the shoulders of men in uniform, who are being asked to spread lies about the controversial contract to buy 36 combat jets from France, critics of the Modi government alleged here on Tuesday.
Accusing Prime Minister Modi of violating the defence procurement norms for the benefit of a businessman, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhusan said lies were being spread through Indian Air Force Vice Chief and other senior officials who came out in the open justifying the deal.
The fresh charges against the Modi government came after two senior IAF officials including its Vice Chief Air Marshal S B Deo publicly defended the Rafale deal, claiming its critics didn't have information to understand the details. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley too defended the contentious contract.
Sinha said it was an “absolute falsehood” to claim that increase in price for the Rafale was on account of “India-specific enhancements” because the India-France Joint Statement of April 10, 2015, stated, “the (Rafale) aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by IAF.”
“The prime minister in order to further a pre-determined decision, foreclosed the discretion of IAF and various other authorities as the quantities to be purchased and the mode of procurement,” said the former finance minister, a strident critic of the Modi government.
Quoting Jaitley's last month's statement on the Rafale deal, Shourie said the Acceptance of Necessity for the contract was given by the Defence Acquisition Council on May 13, 2015 – more than a month after the Prime Minister's announcement in Paris.
“But as per the procedure, DAC approval is a condition precedent,” he added.
While the government claimed the Prime Minister took a “political decision” to acquire 36 planes in a flyaway condition, no such discretion exists in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). The DPP curbs the discretion available to politicians and bureaucrats.
Sinha said Modi usurped the authority of the service headquarters to decide the number of aircraft required and the authority of Categorisation Committee to determine what would be the category under which the procurement would proceed.
“A political decision was taken and presented as fait accompli and ex-post facto approval was sought from the DAC. The sanctity of the entire process stands vitiated,” said Shourie. “Now lies are being spread through IAF Vice Chief. IAF never said it needed only 36 aircraft,” Bhusan added.