Day after SC verdict on Rafale deal, Congress demands Prasad, Sitharaman's resignation
New Delhi, Apr 11: The Congress on Thursday demanded the resignation of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, accusing them of suppressing facts before the Supreme Court and calling Rafale jet deal documents "stolen".
The Congress demand came a day after the apex court agreed to hear review petitions on the Rafale deal on the basis of secret documents leaked to the media. The court also dismissed the government's preliminary objection to treat the sensitive documents as evidence by claiming privilege over them.
"The order of the Supreme Court in the Rafale Review Petition case is a huge rebuff to the central government which raised the specious plea of 'stolen documents'. We demand the resignation of the Defence and Law ministers who authorised the plea of 'stolen documents'," senior Congress leader P Chidambaram tweeted.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the two Union ministers "have tried to suppress these documents by calling them stolen and so instructing the law officer to argue before the court." "Does not their act amount to deceit," Singhvi asked. "I think the resignation of people who called them stolen and repeatedly asserted they were stolen should be called for and should be in order," he told reporters. He, however, said he has no doubt that they do not intend to resign and neither the Prime Minister intends to ask for their resignation.
On Wednesday, Prasad dismissed suggestions that the apex court verdict was a setback to the Centre, saying the merit of the case was yet to be decided. The Centre had submitted that the three privilege documents which were unauthorisedly removed from the Defence Ministry were used by the petitioners to support their review petitions. Singhvi, however, said the court has held that the said documents are not fabricated. "Is it not an act of deceit to say this to the Supreme court and seek to suppress them by recharacterising them as stolen," he asked.
"In a nutshell, this is a jumla sarkar, a feku sarkar. This is a sarkar of deceit, treachery, and of trying to fool all the people all the time, including our institutions like the Supreme Court," he alleged. He claimed the "56-inch" Modi government received a "56-page shock" on the Rafale deal controversy from the apex court, referring to the 58-page court judgment on Wednesday. Singhvi alleged that from day one, Modi government "lied" in the Supreme Court. "...It is crystal clear that set procedures have not been followed in the Rafale deal and 'crony capitalism’ has become the backbone of this scam. Therefore, A JPC investigation is the only possible solution to ascertain the real culprits," the Congress leader said.
"In the affidavit before the Supreme Court, Modiji said that negotiations on Rafale deal were held by the Indian Negotiations Team. Defence Ministry file notings now show otherwise. Parallel negotiations were actually held by PM Modi himself. This fact was deliberately withheld from the Supreme Court," Singhvi said.
The government has dismissed the allegations of any wrongdoing in the deal with France for 36 Rafale fighter jets.
On March 7, Singhvi said, the government's attorney-general told the Supreme Court that "secret" documents published by a newspaper and a few magazines on the deal were "stolen" from the Defence Ministry, but the very next day they claimed these "published" documents were only "photocopies". "After yesterday's Supreme Court judgement, both these assertions are conclusively punctured. There are 3 sets of documents, which the Modi Government wanted to hide from the Supreme Court," he claimed.