New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s “boat of corruption” will no longer sail, the Congress said on Wednesday after the Supreme Court asked the Centre for pricing details of the 36 Rafale fighter jets India is buying from France. Also Read - '60 Flip-Flops in 60 Days': Congress Leader Sanjay Nirupam Targets Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked for the pricing details in a sealed cover within 10 days but agreed that “strategic and confidential” information need not be disclosed. Also Read - Ladakh Standoff: After Defence Minister, PM Modi Meets NSA, CDS, 3 Service Chiefs; Reviews Situation
“The Modi government’s boat of corruption will no longer sail because the Supreme Courts wants to know the truth of Rafale. The corruption-loaded BJP government can no longer remain investigation free, the accused can no longer run away from a JPC (joint parliamentary committee),” Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters. Also Read - 'Effective Steps Needed to Redeem Situation': SC Takes Suo Moto Cognisance of Migrants' Plight
“Dear PM, Please explain to the ‘court of people’, why are you now shying away from JPC investigation? Rafale Scam is now fully ripe for an investigation-no more excuses!” Surjewala added in a tweet.
The top court, in its order, gave some more leeway to the government which has been arguing that pricing details are so sensitive that they have not even been shared with Parliament.
The apex court said the Centre must bring details of the decision making process of the deal in the public domain, except those that are confidential and have strategic importance.
“If pricing is something exclusive and you are not sharing it with us, please file an affidavit and say so,” the bench told Attorney General K K Venugopal in its oral observations.
The top court was hearing four petitions, including one by advocate Prashant Bhushan and former union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who are seeking a court monitored CBI investigation in the procurement of the fighter jets.
The attorney general had expressed reservations about disclosing the details of pricing of the jets and said its cost was not even disclosed in Parliament.
He also said the documents placed by the Centre before the court are covered by the Official Secrets Act.
The bench, also comprising Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph, said the “core of information” that can be brought in the public domain should be shared with the “petitioner and petitioners in person”.
The Congress has been alleging massive irregularities in the Rafale deal, saying the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating a deal for procurement of 126 Rafale fighter jets.
The Congress has also been targeting the government over selection of Reliance Defence as an offset partner for Dassault.
The government has vehemently rejected the allegations and asserted that it did not have any role in the selection of Reliance Defence.