CAG Mehrishi in­el­i­gi­ble to au­dit Rafale deal: Congress

Jait­ley: At­tack By In­sti­tu­tion Wreck­ers Based On False­hood

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION -

New Delhi: Congress and the gov­ern­ment en­gaged in a fresh war of words over the Rafale deal with the op­po­si­tion party rais­ing ques­tions over comp­trol­ler and au­di­tor gen­eral Ra­jiv Mehrishi as he had been fi­nance sec­re­tary when the de­fence con­tract was be­ing worked out and se­nior min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley hit­ting out, call­ing the crit­i­cism an­other in­stance of “in­sti­tu­tion wreck­ers” re­ly­ing on false­hoods.

With the much awaited CAG re­port on Rafale con­tract due to be tabled in the on­go­ing bud­get ses­sion, Congress lead­ers Ghu­lam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal sub­mit­ted a mem­o­ran­dum to Mehrishi say­ing the car­di­nal prin­ci­ple of law was that “no one can be a judge in his own case”. They said Mehrishi was fi­nance sec­re­tary from Oc­to­ber 29, 2014, to Au­gust 30, 2015, the pe­riod when UPA-2’s 126 air­craft ac­qui­si­tion process was scrapped and a new 36 air­craft deal ne­go­ti­ated be­tween In­dian and French gov­ern­ments.

Jait­ley hit back at the Congress lead­ers and said, “Af­ter 10 years in gov­ern­ment, former UPA min­is­ters still don’t know that fi­nance sec­re­tary is only a des­ig­na­tion given to the se­nior most sec­re­tary in the fi­nance min­istry... De­fence min­istry files are dealt with by sec­re­tary (ex­pen­di­ture) and sec­re­tary (eco­nomic af­fairs) has no role in ex­pen­di­ture files of the de­fence min­istry.” He added, “An­other at­tack on the in­sti­tu­tion of CAG by the ‘in­sti­tu­tion wreck­ers’ based on false­hood.”

In­di­cat­ing that Congress is not giv­ing up on the Rafale is­sue and is seek­ing to deny the gov­ern­ment any ad­van­tage from a CAG “clean chit”, the party said, “This means that at the time of uni­lat­eral an­nounce­ment for pur­chase of 36 Rafale air­craft at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore by PM Modi, you (Mehrishi) were the fi­nance sec­re­tary. Even at the time of can­cel­la­tion of the126 air­craft MMRCA deal on June 24, 2015, you were the fi­nance sec­re­tary.”

How­ever, the In­dian ne­go­ti­at­ing team for the deal was set up only in mid-2015 and con­cluded its ne­go­ti­a­tions a lit­tle more than a year later, said gov­ern­ment sources. They also pointed out that an­nounce­ment of a deal un­der an in­ter­gov­ern­ment agree­ment by PM Modi and then French pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande could not be mis­taken for the fi­nal con­tract. Mehrishi was not in gov­ern­ment when the con­tract was fi­nalised.

Jait­ley said it was about time that In­dia and its in­sti­tu­tions were pro­tected from ‘in­sti­tu­tion wreck­ers’. BJP spokesper­son G V L Nar­simha Rao said, “Fake pro­tec­tors of in­sti­tu­tions at­tack­ing CAG again! UPA ap­pointed former de­fence sec­re­tary (2011-13) as CAG. Did we ever say UPA did it to cover up de­fence scan­dals dur­ing its ten­ure?” He said it was com­mon prac­tice for former bu­reau­crats to be ap­pointed CAG.

In its mem­o­ran­dum, Congress claimed Mehrishi failed to put on record his role in the Rafale deal to the SC, the gov­ern­ment and the Congress del­e­ga­tion that met him twice, point­ing to a di­rect “con­flict of in­ter­est”, which ren­dered him “in­el­i­gi­ble to con­duct any au­dit on the Rafale deal as CAG”.

BIRD OF WAR: Youth Congress mem­bers protest against the Rafale deal at Talkatora Sta­dium in New Delhi in this Jan­uary 30 photo

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