JPC on Rafale deal is latest avatar of agenda to subvert national interest

The push to have the price in the public domain smacks of vested interest that does not bother about what is good for India.

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Updated: Dec 24, 2018, 12:39 PM IST

Democratically elected PM defamed/derided
The Rafale judgement is out. Honourable Supreme Court has given its verdict. Appropriately the apex court has said that the contents of the deal are not justifiable. No value judgement on prerogative of the judicial scrutiny that vests with the judiciary. It augurs well for the larger interest of the nation. The cabal represented by the petitioners who had spread lies, had sought to defame, deride and vilify the Honourable Prime Minster about things not being clean. All for what appears for a political victory. Will they now apologise to the nation?

Cutting your nose to spite the face
No, it doesn't appear so. They seem to be in no mood to relent. They are now seeking a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). Is it a case of cutting one's nose to spite the face. I do not think it is just that. It is a larger conspiracy. 

Procurement process/price discovery
Make no mistake that my earlier piece on the subject has elaborated the due process which are fail safe in the procurement process. Further, it may be recalled that in 2017, the government further reinforced through bringing out a Manual on Public Procurement detailing elaborate procedures to be followed to the public procurement process be it a pin or plane.

Underneath the preparation of the procedure, lot of groundwork, application of mind has gone in. The Finance Secretaries, both during the tenure of Shri Ratan Watal and Shri Ashok Lavasa, have held series of consultative sessions with Financial Advisers of all Ministries and Departments of the Government of India and their team.

I myself as deputy to Financial Adviser to Ministry of Textiles have attended these meetings, which can be corroborated from records. Further, the draft manual was also shared with these stake holders and their views were obtained. Hence, the efficacy of the system is sound credit to these two senior illustrious civil servants. This way absolute integrity in price discovery is ensured.

Inter-governmental agreements
Now regarding the inter-governmental deal between India and France. Our Constitution specifically empowers the Union of India under Entry 14 Schedule VII read with Article 246 in the matter.

Notwithstanding this, these agreements are not signed by mere fantasies of the government in power. The imperatives of each clause is gone through, clause by clause, assessed by civil servants, which include the Territorial Division of the Ministry of External Affairs, their Legal & Treaties Division, DSA Division if deemed required, the concerned Administrative Ministry (which is the Ministry of Defence in the instant case), and Department of Legal Affairs. Again the party which has hitherto been in power knows it is a fool-proof system. Hence, on both counts the raking up of the Rafale deal was specious on the part of the political party.

Supreme Court ruling
Having said that, it should be appreciated that in spite of all the hype the Honourable Supreme Court handled it very professionally. It may be reiterated here that the acquisition of Rafale would empower India with overwhelming military strength in the region. No one from the cabal have brought it out and the general tendency of the critics of the government is to understate this.

Such overwhelming military empowerment is surely a deterrent to nations as well as non-state actors acting inimical to the interest of the nation. This is the basis of our enemies' attempt to get the price of the deal whether unit or total. Revelation of price is the biggest give for calibration of the strength and penetration ability which is a matter of concern and interest to these enemies of the country. Hence, revelation of the price was to be avoided.

The apex court did this in an outstanding way, in spite of the repeated attempts of vested interests to bring the price on public domain for benefit nation's enemies.

Court procedure in such sensitive cases
Indeed, I have been privy to handling of such issues by the judiciary. In one case very sensitive in nature, once I had carried the files for perusal by presiding judges in the chambers. Similarly, the honourable judges indeed sought a sealed-cover report. Being an important pillar of the state, they ruled that this matter should come to rest. Hence, Supreme Court ruling should be accepted as finality.

JPC demand inappropriate both on facts as well as on rules
The demand for a JPC probe will again expose the proposal of leaking vital information on our strength to enemies of the nation. Firstly, the vulnerability of leakage is very high. Secondly, the issue will continue to burn till the probe continues. In such matters it is in best interest of nation that such information is accessed only on 'need to know' basis.

General elections are in the offing in 2019, and will entail a new Lok Sabha and attendant constitution of new PAC, EC and other Parliamentary Panels. The possibility of sensitive information spreading to larger number of individuals arises.

Further, in matters of such sensitive nature, even in cases of replies to Parliamentary questions, motions, etc, the Rules of Procedures of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha provide for, if the matter concerns security and integrity of the country or potential to affect relations with a friendly or neighbouring nation, the government to decline to answer.

Hence, not just because of the fact that matter stands settled to finality in Supreme Court, but also taking recourse to the Rules of Procedures of both Lok Sabha (Rule 41 sub-rule 20) and commensurate provision in Rajya Sabha, it is anomalous to raise the issue of a JPC probe.

Or, is it some other hidden agenda in this demand. The nation begs an answer. 

Because if a common man was to show such zeal he would have prosecuted under Official Secrets Act.

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)