Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal. The statement came in the wake of a French judge being appointed
"Corruption in the Rafale deal has come out clearly now. The stand of the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi has been vindicated today after the French government has ordered a probe," he told reporters at a press conference.
The statement came after France appointed a judge to lead a "highly sensitive" judicial investigation into alleged "corruption and favouritism" in the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal with India, as per French local media.
The judicial investigation has been ordered by France's national financial prosecutors' office, following Mediapart's fresh investigative reports in April of alleged wrongdoings in the deal as well as a complaint filed by French NGO Sherpa that specialises in financial crime. The report had at the time cited an investigation by the country's anti-corruption agency and reported that Dassault Aviation had paid about one million Euros to an Indian middleman.
According to the report, a probe into the inter-governmental deal signed in 2016 was formally opened on June 14.
"A judicial probe into suspected corruption has been opened in France over the 7.8-billion-euro sale to India in 2016 of 36 Dassault-built Rafale fighter aircraft," the Mediapart reported on the latest development on the controversial deal.
The report also noted that an investigation has been initiated by the national financial prosecutor's office (PNF).
Back at home, Surjewala said since the matter deals with national security and identity, a fair and independent JPC probe is the only way out and not the Supreme Court.
"When the French government has accepted that there is corruption in the deal, should a JPC probe be not held in the country where the corruption took place," he asked.
Surjewala said this issue is not about Congress versus BJP, but this is an issue that concerns the security of the country and "corruption" in the biggest defence deal.
"The facts now clearly tell and call for a thorough JPC probe into the Rafale scam. Will the prime minister, like the French, now answer to the nation and tell when the prime minister will submit his government to a JPC probe into the Rafale scam," the Congress leader asked.
He said this is an issue of national interest and against those who are filling their pockets by indulging in corruption in defence deals.
Surjewala said a JPC probe will be able to call witnesses and will be able to have access to all government files which the Supreme Court (SC) or the Central Vigilance Commission could never see.
It will be able to ask probing questions, will be able to punish somebody for lying and will be able to summon the prime minister, defence minister or defence ministry officials and anybody else, he said.
"The JPC is the only way forward," he claimed.
The Congress has previously accused the government of massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that it was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government during the negotiations for the MMRCA.
Prior to the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the party had raised several questions about the deal and alleged corruption but the government rejected all the charges.
There was no immediate reaction from the Indian government or the BJP.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.
Dassault Aviation has rejected the allegations of corruption, saying no violations were reported in the frame of the contract.
(With inputs from PTI)