'Can't probe Rafale deal to satisfy ego of Cong leader'

'Can't probe Rafale deal to satisfy ego of Cong leader'

Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad briefs the press after the Cabinet meeting, in New Delhi. (PTI photo)

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday rejected the Congress' demand for a probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal, saying an inquiry cannot be set up only to satisfy the ego of an "ill-informed" leader of the opposition party who "repeats lies".

He also said that former defence minister A K Antony has a lot to answer for keeping the public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which was to be offset partner of the French maker of Rafale jets, in the lurch despite being in office for eight years.

"I don't think JPC or CAG inquiry is set up to satisfy the ego of an ill-informed leader who repeats lies with alarming regularity," he told reporters, in an apparent attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

His response came after Congress leaders met the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal and for leaving HAL out of the offset contract and transfer of technology. The Congress has also been demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the matter.

Prasad said Antony was the defence minister when the offset rule was framed, as incumbent defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already articulated.

Under India's offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.

"He was the minister who left HAL in the lurch, as far as the joint operations are concerned. Mr Antony has a lot to answer," he said.

"What has struck me more is that Mr Antony, who was defence minister for eight years during which nothing could be done for modernisation and empowerment of Indian forces, (making a statement on the issue)," he said.

Prasad also said that Indian Air Force badly needs planes as the old planes are causing repeated accidents. "Should the Congress at least rise to the occasion for the sake of country's safety and security," he said. 

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox