Mumbai: Calling the Rafale deal the “largest defence scam” in the country, Advocate Prashant Bhushan said Saturday that the he hoped that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will act upon the complaint made by him and two others against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others in the case, and register a Preliminary Enquiry, or an FIR. Bhushan said that if the CBI failed to follow due process, he will then take the case to court.
He was speaking at an event organised by the Mumbai Press Club. Responding to questions on whether the present day Rafale deal was a case similar to the Bofors scam of the 1980s, Bhushan said that Rafale was a much more serious, and greater cause of concern. “This (Rafale) isn’t merely a matter of securing commission for a particular company, as was the case in Bofors. This is the largest defence scam that the country has seen and a breach of our national security,” Bhushan said. “To begin with, it deals with much more money.
It left the Indian Air Force high and dry, and by securing offset contracts for Anil Ambani’s new company that has no experience in building fighter air crafts, it also puts our national security at risk,” he said. On October 4 this year, Bhushan, former BJP minister Yashwant Sinha, and senior journalist Arun Shourie submitted a written complaint to the CBI. The complaint names Prime Minister Modi and former defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
It urges the CBI to register a PE for an FIR against them on various charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act for a range of alleged offences committed in April 2015 in the course of purchasing 36 aircrafts from France based Dassault Aviation. In the complaint, Bhushan and the others have questioned how Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, the Indian offset partner of Dassault Aviation, could be involved in the deal as it has no prior experience in the field and Ambani’s most other companies “were in debt.”
“We are yet to hear from the CBI. If due process is followed, CBI should register an FIR based on the complaint. However, if that doesn’t happen then we’ll take the matter to court,” Bhushan said. In September 2016, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, at an estimated cost of “rupees 60,000 crore.” Bhushan alleged that while the government had refused to reveal the per-plane price, the deal was over priced and that the French firm had been made to chose Reliance Defence at the insistence of the Prime Minister. Bhushan alleged that the initial plan was to get 126 aircrafts. While 30 percent of these were to be made by Dassault, the rest were to be made here in India by the state run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., he said.
In his complaint, he has alleged that just months before the above deal was finalised, the then Foreign Secretary, S. Jaishankar had said that HAL would be involved in the process of getting the 126 aircrafts. “It is significant, Modi chose to keep the IAF, HAL, the Foreign Ministry, and even the Defence Ministry in the dark about his impending designs..,” the complaint reads. “Ambani accompanied Modi to Paris. Evidently, on the date of the commission of the offence both of them were present at the same location and had ensured that other public servants duty-bound to protect India’s public interest and within whose domain the subject matter of the deal squarely felt were absent,” it reads.
Earlier last month, a French media outlet quoted former President Francois Hollande as saying that his government “did not have a say” in choosing Reliance Defence for the deal since the Indian government had proposed Reliance Defence’s name.