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First time in CAG history, it gave redacted pricing detail in Rafale jet deal, Bhushan tells SC

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

It is for the first time in CAG's history that it has given redacted pricing to Parliament in the Rafale fighter jet deal, former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

The government itself has disclosed the price of the Rafale deal thrice in Parliament, Bhushan told a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph.

"The government itself disclosed thrice in the Parliament the price of Rafale fighter jet deal. They even gave price of up-gradation of Mirage fighter aircraft. This is the first time in the history of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that redacted pricing of fighter jet deal were given. This is astonishing. This was done on the insistence of government," said Bhushan arguing on behalf of Sinha and Shourie as also himself.

He said the government knew before hand that CAG report will contain redacted pricing of Rafale fighter jets.

"This is contrary to the CAG Act. They cannot table redacted pricing details before the Parliament and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). This is the first time it has been done and the government knew about it," Bhushan added.

After Bhushan, the bench gave opportunity to Shourie to make submission and he said there was need for reviewing the judgement as the Centre did not come up with clean hands and suppressed the material facts.

The Centre told the bench that the documents related to the Rafale fighter jet deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and threatened The Hindu newspaper with the Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on them.

Those who put documents on the Rafale deal in the public domain are guilty under the Act as also contempt of court, Attorney General K K Venugopal said.

While publishing articles based on stolen documents amounts to violation of the Official Secrets Act, entailing maximum punishment of up to 14 years, the contempt law attracts six months jail as also a fine of Rs 2,000.

Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition seeking review of the verdict on December 14 last year, alleged that the Centre suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs.

The bench, which will hear the review petitions further on March 14, was told by Venugopal that every statement of the apex court made in the Rafale case may be used to destabilise either the government or the opposition and therefore court should refrain from making it.

The high voltage hearing saw the bench showering several tricky questions to the AG who was buttressing that the stolen materials cannot be relied to revisit the judgement dismissing the pleas and it was necessary to determine the sources who provided the sensitive documents.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 06 2019. 21:25 IST