Centre moves SC seeking corrections in Rafale verdict’s portion about CAG and PAC

The Centre on Saturday moved the Supreme Court seeking correction in the Rafale jet judgment where a reference has been made about the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report and Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), saying “misinterpretation” of its note has “resulted in a controversy in the public domain”.

In the application, the Centre said the two sentences in paragraph 25 of the judgment appeared to have been based on the note submitted by it along with the pricing details in a sealed cover, but indicated the words used by the court lent a different meaning.

The Centre made it clear that it did not say that the CAG report was examined by PAC or a redacted portion was placed before Parliament. It clarified that the note had said the Government “has already shared” the price details with the CAG, which was written in past tense and “is factually correct”.

However, where it was stated by the Centre in the note that the report of the CAG “is” examined by the PAC, was a description of the procedure which is followed in the normal course, but in the judgment ‘is’ was replaced with the words ‘has been’, according to the application.

Similarly, the statement that only a redacted version of the report “is” placed before Parliament, was referred to in the judgment as “only a redacted portion of the report was placed before Parliament, and was in public domain”, the Centre said and sought necessary changes in the apex court order.

The government moved the application a day after the opposition Congress and others raised questions on the issue and accused the government of misleading the apex court on CAG report. Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who chairs the PAC, had said no such report had come to him.

In regard to the pricing details being placed before the CAG, PAC and Parliament, para 25 of the judgment read, “The pricing details have, however, been shared with Comptroller and Auditor General, and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee. Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before Parliament and is in public domain.”

The Centre said, in the application, that these statements appeared to have been based on the note submitted by it in sealed cover.
“In the said note, which was in the form of bullet points, the second bullet point said that the Government has already shared the pricing details with the CAG. The report of the CAG is examined by the PAC. Only a redacted version of the report is placed before the Parliament and in public domain,” it said.

The application explained that what has been done is described by words in the past tense, that is the government “has already shared” the price details with the CAG. This is in the past tense and is factually correct.

“The second part of the sentence, in regard to the PAC, is to the effect that ‘the report of the CAG is examined by the PAC’. However, in the judgment, the reference to the word ‘is’ has been replaced with the words ‘has been’, and the sentence in the judgment (with regard to the PAC) read ‘the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee’,” the application said.

“The very fact that the present tense ‘is’ is used would mean that the reference is to the procedure which will be followed as and when the CAG report is ready,” it said.
The application said that the statement that only a redacted version of the report “is” placed before Parliament, was referred to in the judgment as “only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament, and was in public domain”.

“That unfortunately, an element of misinterpretation of the statement made in the note handed over on behalf of the Centre in the sealed cover, appeared to have crept in. This has also resulted in a controversy being raised in the public domain,” it said.

The Centre sought that the words “the report of the CAG is examined by the PAC. Only a redacted version of the report is placed before the Parliament and in public domain” be substituted in place of “and the report of the CAG has been examined by the Public Accounts Committee. Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament and is in public domain.”

The Supreme Court had on Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets saying there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision making process” warranting setting aside of the contract.

The apex court rejected the pleas seeking lodging of an FIR and the court-monitored probe alleging irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal, in which both the countries have entered into an inter-governmental agreement (IGA).

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi dealt with “three broad areas of concern” raised in the petitions — the decision making process, pricing and the choice of Indian offset partners (IOP) — and said there was no reason for intervention by the court on the “sensitive issue” of purchase of 36 jets.

Though the order came as a relief to the Modi government, which asserted that its stand has been vindicated, the opposition remaind firm on its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal.

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