Parliament, not court, right place to debate Rafale: Chidambaram

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Nagpur: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said on Saturday that Parliament, and not court, was the right forum to take up the Rafale fighter jet deal in which his party has alleged a major “scam”.Addressing a press conference here, the former Union home minister said the Rafale deal should not be compared with the Bofors case as there was no corruption in the purchase of Bofors guns from Sweden in 1980s.

Replying to a query on approaching the court on the Rafale deal issue, he said, “The solution to this problem is not court…this has become a fashion in India –for everything you go to court.

“The place to debate is Parliament…that is where the elected representatives are. All debates take place in Parliament, debates do not take place in court. It is only in India that courts have become a debating place and Parliament has become stagnant,” Chidambaram said.

He said if the government did not want to debate the issue in Parliament, the other option was to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) – a demand made by the Congress – and discuss the deal there.

The JPC represents Parliament. It is miniature Parliament, he said.

The Congress leader also asked how could the government term the acquisition of 36 Rafale jets an “emergency” purchase when the first of the fighter planes was meant to arrive four years after the deal.

“Not one aircraft has arrived in India since its announcement in 2015. The first aircraft is expected to arrive in September 2019 and remaining in 2022. Now where is the question of emergency purchasing when the first aircraft comes after four years and the remaining after seven years?” he questioned.

The former Union minister also sought to know why the government did not persuade France’s Dassault Aviation, the makers of the fighter aircraft, to give off-set contract related to the multi-crore deal to state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

“Assuming Dassault can choose its offset partners, why did not the government encourage, persuade and advise Dassault to choose HAL which has an impeccable record in manufacturing aircraft among public sector companies?” he said.

Asked whether the Rafale deal “scam” was on the lines of the Bofors scandal, Chidambaram said, “Bofors was not a scam. There is a judgement of Justice J D Kapoor of the Delhi High Court which conclusively finds that there was no corruption or scam in the Bofors deal.

“So please do not compare Rafale with the Bofors deal.

Bofors (scam) was a figment of imagination of late prime minister V P Singh,” he said.

Asked if the Rafale deal was a “scam” as claimed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Chidambaram said, “This (the deal) raises serious questions, which leads to heavy suspicion and if the answers are not forthcoming, we have to conclude that it is a scam. Let them give the answers first”.