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'PMO monitoring Rafale deal doesn't amount to parallel negotiations,' Centre files fresh affidavit in SC, says case will harm national security

The Centre, Saturday, filed a fresh affidavit in the Rafale case, urging the Supreme Court to dismiss all petitions demanding a detailed investigation into the case on the grounds of national security. The BJP-led central government has argued that disclosing the procurement process will have "grave repercussions on existence of Indian state" and on national security, given the current environment in the country, as well as in neighbouring ones.

 PMO monitoring Rafale deal doesnt amount to parallel negotiations, Centre files fresh affidavit in SC, says case will harm national security

File image of the Supreme Court of India. PTI

The Centre had been asked to file a reply latest by today (Saturday) on petitions seeking review of last December's verdict in which the apex court had dismissed pleas challenging India's deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

In its 14 December order, the Supreme Court had ruled that it was satisfied by the government's submissions and dismissed all petitions demanding a probe into the controversial defence deal. The court had asserted that the Rafale deal was not a case of "commercial favouritism", as opposed to what was being alleged by Opposition parties.

However, in the light of some media reports highlighting fresh facts about the negotiation process of the deal, and the alleged "parallel negotiations" by the prime minister's office, the Supreme Court had agreed to review its order.

The government, however, in Saturday's response, held that the apex court's December 2018 judgement was correct and held that unsubstantiated media reports and/or part internal file notings deliberately projected in a selective manner cannot form the basis for review.

The reference here was to a report in The Hinduwhich leaked a "dissent note" by a defence ministry official objecting to the PMO's parallel discussions which has weakened the negotiation of the MoD and the Indian Negotiating Team.

The government had then opposed the admissibility of these documents as proof, stating that these were stolen from classified government files and had submitted that the "privilege documents" were procured by petitioners illegally. However, the court had shot down this "peculiar argument", maintaining that documents revealed by media without authorisation can also be treated as admissible evidence in public interest.

Now, the Centre has admitted to the PMO's intervention in the negotiation process but has claimed that mere "monitoring" by the prime minister's office of an important deal did not translate to conducting "parallel negotiations" with the French side.

"Monitoring of the progress by PMO of this Government to Government process cannot be construed as interference or parallel negotiations," the government told the Supreme Court.

The government also raised questions on the Supreme Court order of 10 April, allowing the submission of these documents saying that the by letting closely guarded State secrets be obtained through whatever means will have "great repercussions on the very existence of the Indian State".

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation. A deal to procure the jets was signed between India and France in 2015. The delivery is expected to begin in September this year.

With inputs from @utkarsh_aanand  and @ANI

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Updated Date: May 04, 2019 13:17:18 IST