This Is Proof That Modi Govt Misled Supreme Court on Rafale: N Ram
Videlo Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Hours after his investigative report revealed that the Defence Ministry itself had raised serious objections about the PMO conducting parallel discussions on Rafale with the French side, former editor-in-chief of The Hindu N Ram spoke to The Quint about the significance of the revelations, and how it proves that the Modi government actively misled the Supreme Court in the Rafale case.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview.
‘PMO Went Behind Defence Ministry’s Back, It’s Misconduct’
The Quint: Your story reveals how the Defence Ministry itself had raised objections to how the Prime Minister’s Office was ostensibly conducting parallel conversations with the French side on Rafale. What are the implications of this, and does it indicate illegality of any sort?
N Ram: It’s highly improper, it’s misconduct. It’s not just parallel conversations or negotiations, it’s also done behind your back, without informing you. Taking diametrically opposite and contrary positions on the sovereign guarantee, on the arbitration details. Already, on pricing, three of the seven members of the Indian Negotiating Team objected to the benchmark price, the design and development costs for India-specific enhancements and virtually every other of the contentious issues. So already, you have very strong opposition within the Defence Ministry, particularly from the civilians, the financial experts and in this case, from practically everybody going up to the then Defence Secretary. So, it’s misconduct and this is not how you conduct governance.
‘Proof That Govt Suppressed Information and Misled SC’
The Quint: Would it be fair to say that the Modi administration misled the nation by suppressing this information about the Defence Ministry’s reservations? Given that the case came up in the Supreme Court as well, is this information that ought to have been furnished by the government in the SC?
N Ram: What this shows is that the government not only failed to give the information it should have given to the Supreme Court, but it actively misled the Supreme Court – because it made out that the Indian Negotiating Team was involved in this and the government certainly suppressed information regarding the role of the PMO in this case, in relation to the sovereign guarantee and the arbitration agreement and some of the other terms. The level of the objection was also serious and this should have been reported to the Supreme Court but they failed to do it, so I think it merits a possible contempt of court petition on this.
If you see the government’s note, as has been published by The Wire and other places, it talks about the duly constituted Indian Negotiating Team – nowhere does it say that the PMO was involved. So, the government has not just been economical with the truth, but has been actively misleading the Supreme Court to come up with a flawed decision because the court can only draw conclusions from what it is given.
‘Govt Let the Air Force Down’
The Quint: Do you think the government’s actions on Rafale have impacted national security?
N Ram: If you see the whole thing, the Air Force wanted minimum 126 aircraft, they’re getting only 36. Plus, there's no follow-on clause. This is going to make things worse, I don’t know when we’re going to get 126. So, I’d say that the government has certainly let the Air Force down.
Modi’s Bofors Moment?
The Quint: You reported extensively on the Bofors scandal during Rajiv Gandhi’s time, and now on the Rafale story. Would you go so far as to say that this is the Modi government’s Bofors moment? What is the political significance of this expose?
N Ram: It’s hard to compare. The similarities are the decision-making bypassing procedures, covering up. There are differences as well. As for the political impact, we are already seeing that unfolding – in Rahul Gandhi’s press conference, in Parliament, the issue is going to be discussed. So, it does have political significance, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays, I think it will snowball.
On Parrikar’s Reply to Defence Ministry’s Dissent Note
Here is how N Ram responded to a question about then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s reply to the Defence Ministry’s dissent note.