“The latest skeleton to tumble out of the Rafale cupboard: No guarantee by the French Govt backing the deal but our PM says there’s a letter from the French promising to be faithful! That’s enough to call this a “Govt to Govt” deal?” Gandhi tweeted.
The Congress president has been demanding that his allegations of corruption in the deal should be probed.
In Supreme Court on Thursday, the petitioners attacked the foundations of the new deal, signed by the NDA government in 2016, and announced by Modi in 2015, by claiming it could not be a government-to-government deal because there was no sovereign guarantee provided by France.
The petitioners, activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, former union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh and advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda asked for an investigation on four grounds: lack of transparency over the pricing of the jets; an offsets deal that seemed to favour a private firm; flouting of due process in closing the deal; and that the deal isn’t a government-to-government deal at all as it has been pitched because France refused to offer India a sovereign guarantee and instead gave it a letter of comfort.
A former government official directly involved in defence purchases said there was nothing unusual about the deal.
“All Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs) are subject to negotiations including clauses about dispute resolution and sovereign guarantee. IGAs are negotiated agreements in which nothing is written in stone. There is no standard format. India has bought arms earlier on the basis of a letter of comfort from Russia and other countries as well,” said Amit Cowshish, former chief financial advisor (acquisition).
Attorney General KK Venugopal admitted that the French government did not offer a sovereign guarantee, but had issued a letter of comfort, ensuring the final execution of the deal.
The law officer denied the charge that procedures were violated and said courts could not review the inter-governmental agreement on the judicial side.