Politically divided JPC is looking into Rafale matter: Sitharaman

Mumbai: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday hit out at the Congress for demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the Rafale deal, saying that a politically divided JPC is trying to dig into a matter which has already been looked into by the Supreme Court.

“A politically divided JPC is looking into a matter already looked into by the Supreme Court. A Bofors JPC ended up converting kickbacks into winding up charges. So, to ask for JPC is for Congress’ political grandstanding rather than genuinely knowing, post court’s verdict,” Sitharaman said at a press conference here.

Explaining the judgement error that created a controversy last week, Sitharaman said: “In the affidavit, we have given the data and the information. We think there is an interpretation problem, we would like you (court) to look at it and correct it. That is our appeal to the court, we will wait for them to take the call.”

The Defence Minister also referred to its submission in the sealed cover.

She said, “We explained the process through which information comes to Parliament. In that, the past tense, future tense, present tense and present continuous tense have come into play. That is post the decision, is it not? Therefore, how is it going to affect verdict?”

She further asserted, “We have given the price to the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General), in a Parliamentary system the CAG looks into it and then its report goes to PAC (Public Accounts Committee). The PAC will have a look at it and then it will become a public document. It is a process and it has commenced.”

Sitharaman’s statement came two days after the Centre filed an application before Supreme Court seeking a correction in its order in the case in which petitions were filed seeking a court-monitored probe in the deal.

The Centre on Saturday filed the application seeking a correction in the order to make it clear that the pricing aspect, examined by the CAG has not been looked into by PAC as yet.

In its application, accessed by ANI, the union government pointed out that error in two sentences appeared to have occurred.

The government clarified that it had only submitted a “description of procedure” by the CAG, in which the Supreme Court appears to have mistaken “is” for “has been”.

The Centre sought urgent correction in the wording of a particular paragraph in the order “in the interests of justice and in the facts and circumstances of the case”, while noting that “the observations in the judgment have resulted in a controversy.”

On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed petitions seeking a probe into the deal, saying it does not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Government of India.

The Congress and some other opposition parties had been alleging that due processes were not followed in the decision to procure 36 aircraft from French company Dassault.