MAY 5, Sunday
* Front Page
PMO ‘monitoring’ Rafale deal progress not interference: govt.
Centre’s submission follows SC’s directive to respond to review petitions
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was “monitoring” the progress of the deal to buy 36 Rafale jets but this could not be taken as “parallel negotiations” with the French side, the government told the Supreme Court on Saturday.
The submission follows the directive on Tuesday last that the government respond to the Rafale deal case review petitions by Saturday. The Centre had sought a whole month to respond.
“The monitoring of the progress by the PMO of this government-to-government process cannot be construed as interference or parallel negotiations,” it said.
A series of reports published by The Hindu had revealed that the PMO was conducting “parallel negotiations”. A Defence Ministry note that was published said the “parallel parleys” had “weakened the negotiating position of MoD [the Ministry of Defence] and the Indian Negotiating Team”.
But the government denied any reason for objection from the Ministry. It referred to how the then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, himself had noted that “it appears that PMO and French President’s office are monitoring the progress of the issues, which was an outcome of the summit meeting”.
The government said these “selective” reports, based on “some incomplete internal file notings, procured unauthorisedly and illegally”, did not reflect the final decision of the competent authority. They could not form the basis for a review petition. The two affidavits filed by the MoD said the action of the review petitioners, who include former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, was “tantamount to questioning the sovereign decision concerning national security and defence”.