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Rafale: Plea of perjury misconceived, Centre tells SC

By Anuj Cariappa

New Delhi, May 10: The Centre has told the Supreme Court that a plea for perjury action against unknown public servants for allegedly misleading the court during Rafale case hearing was "completely misconceived" as media reports and some "incomplete internal file notings" cannot be the basis for such proceedings.

In a reply affidavit submitted in the court on the application filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, the Centre said the allegations of making false statements and suppressing facts from the court were "completely false" and "baseless".

Rafale: Plea of perjury misconceived, Centre tells SC

The government said its submissions in the court were based on records, while the petitioners were relying on "selective leaks" in media from the ministry of defence files on opinions expressed by individual officers or a group of officers and this presents an "incomplete picture" on matters relating to national security and defence.

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"On facts as well, the contention of the petitioners that the officials of the answering respondent (Centre) have made false statements and suppressed evidence while submitting information on 'decision making process', 'offsets' and 'pricing' pursuant to orders passed by this court is completely false, baseless and an attempt to intimidate government servants from performing their duty on this ground alone, the application is liable to be dismissed," it said.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is scheduled to hear on Friday the pleas seeking review of its December 14 last year verdict in the Rafale case along with applications seeking perjury action against unknown government servants and production of certain documents before the court.

On December 14 last year, the court had dismissed the plea filed by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan seeking probe into alleged irregularities in the multi-crore Rafale fighter jet deal.

In its reply to the application seeking perjury action, the Centre has said that "in view of dismissal of the main writ petition, the present application which has been filed is not at all maintainable."

The Centre said that "all the averments made before the Supreme Court were based on (a) the final decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and the CCS note which formed the basis of this decision, (b) final decisions by the Raksha Mantri (RM) and Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), (c) provisions in defence procurement procedure and (d) inputs received from the Indian Air Force and other constituent offices of the Ministry of Defence".

"There is no act of perjury involved in the submissions made before the Supreme Court as the submissions are based on records," it said, adding, "The information provided to the court is after due approval of the competent authorities based on records, documents and decisions."

The affidavit alleged that petitioners were "deliberately providing incomplete and selective information" and altering the sequence of events of procurement process to misled the court and the public.

"It is submitted that placing reliance on some media reports and some incomplete internal file notings procured unauthorisedly and illegally, the petitioners cannot seek to re-open the whole matter by filing false and frivolous applications and terming it as 'perjury' and attempt to get a fishing and roving inquiry ordered, which this court has specifically declined to go into based on perceptions of individuals," it said.

It also said that media reports cannot form the basis for seeking initiation of perjury proceedings since it is well settled that courts do not take decisions on the basis of media reports.

The affidavit said that plea seeking perjury action was "completely misconceived and liable to be dismissed".

"The contents of the briefs/responses were based on official records/files/inputs from various constituents/ affiliated entities within the MoD such as DoMW, DDP for offsets, the IAF and the HQIDS which acts as the Secretariat of the DAC and the same were finalised after extensive deliberations at the highest levels in government, after a series of meetings," the affidavit said.

It said that the petitioners main contention regarding alleged over-priced deal was not supported by the CAG report.

Referring to the records, the affidavit said that Centre has no role in the selection of Indian offset partner which is a commercial decision of the original equipment manufacturer.

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"The concerns raised by members of the INT were deliberated and addressed while ensuring utmost integrity and transparency in the process, allowing opinions to be freely expressed, recorded, discussed and if necessary modified. Aspects pertaining to the responsibility and obligations of French government, pricing, delivery schedule, maintenance terms, offsets, IGA terms etc were discussed and negotiated during these meetings," it said.

India signed an agreement with France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in a fly-away condition as part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment. The deal is estimated to be about Rs 58,000 crore (about $8 billion).

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

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