NEW DELHI — Alleging conflict of interest, the Congress on Sunday requested Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi to recuse himself from auditing the deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter aircraft as he, as the then finance secretary, was part of the negotiations.
The opposition party also said that it would be improper on the part of Mehrishi to present the report in Parliament and said that it had written to him to recuse himself.
The CAG report on the controversial deal is likely to be tabled in Parliament on Monday.
In a communique to the former bureaucrat, the Congress has alleged that the government compromised “national interest” and “national security” in the purchase of the 36 aircraft and said the CAG has a constitutional and statutory duty to undertake a forensic audit of all defence contracts, including the Rafale deal.
“It is an act of gross impropriety for you to deal with the audit of the 36 Rafale aircraft deal on account of patent conflict of interest...You are constitutionally, legally and morally disentitled to either conduct an audit or to present a report before...Parliament. We urge upon you to recuse yourself and publicly accept the gross impropriety committed by you in initiating the audit...,” it said.
In its communique, the Congress has alleged that the irregularities, bungling and corruption was happening at the highest level with “your direct or indirect complicity and consent”.
“This reflects your direct collaboration in the entire matter. That being so, there is no reason or occasion for you to audit the 36 Rafale aircraft deal as you can neither be a judge in your own cause nor can sit in audit over your own actions to which you were a party. We are deeply shocked by the fact that despite knowing these facts, you chose to neither recuse yourself as CAG from auditing the 36 Rafale aircraft deal...,” it sad.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal reiterated that Mehrishi is likely to present the report on the Rafale deal in Parliament on Monday.
Sibal said that Mehrishi was the finance secretary from October 24, 2014 to August 30, 2015 and in between Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Paris on April 10, 2015 and announced the signing of the Rafale deal.
″...Finance Ministry plays an important role in these negotiations...Now it is clear that the Rafale deal happened under Rajeev Mehrishi. Now he is CAG. We met him twice on September 19 and October 4, 2018. We told him about the scam. We told him that the deal should be probed because it is corrupt. But how can he initiate a probe against himself,” Sibal said.
The Congress said it had, in its submissions to the CAG, listed the acts of omission and commission as well as corruption in the Rafale deal.
“He obviously cannot probe decisions he took as finance secretary. He will protect himself first and then his government. There cannot be a bigger conflict of interest than this,” he said.
Sibal further said that he was trying to tell the people of India that the government was misleading them and how this government was being protected.
Lashing out at Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Sibal said that she was protecting the prime minister rather than protecting the country.
“In this country, the defence minister who is responsible for protecting the country is defending the PM only. They are saying that what happened, everything was correct, everyone else is a liar, flogging a dead horse. Then on the other hand the expose of what happened is there,” he said.
He further questioned why the prime minister was not answering basic questions on the deal regarding why parallel negotiations were undertaken when the defence ministry had written that such “interventions” cannot happen.
Asked what steps would the Congress take if Mehrishi presents the CAG report on the deal in Parliament, Sibal evaded a direct reply and said that the exposes on the issue will not stop here.
“What action can we take? The exposes are not going to stop here. The truth will come out definitely. We are ordinary people, we cannot accuse someone without facts like the PM who levels allegations against us everyday without any facts. We are not like that. We accuse someone only when we have some proof,” he said.