13:51 GMT02 April 2020
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    While India's Narendra Modi-led government has time and again invoked a “secrecy clause” for not revealing the actual price at which the country is purchasing 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, the main opposition Congress Party has claimed no such clause exists in the India-France contract.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): India's opposition parties have threatened to move a Breach of Privilege Motion in Parliament against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for "misleading the Parliament" about a "secrecy clause" in the Indo-French defense agreement pertaining to the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

    READ MORE: Indian Opposition Alleges $5.5 Billion Misappropriation in Rafale Fighter Deal

    "There is nothing in the defense agreement that does not allow the government to reveal the price…After the 2008 Indo-French agreement, I had revealed in Parliament prices of many defense contracts, including the most sensitive ones such as Admiral Gorshkov, Vikramaditya, and Sukhoi. Significantly, I revealed the price of the Mirage up-gradation. And Mirage is a French aircraft," A.K. Antony, former defense minister and member of the Congress Party, said in a press briefing on Monday.

    "They [Modi government] have to reveal the price details of the Rafale aircraft. The more they try to hide it, the more suspicion will rise," Antony added.

    "The defense minister and the prime minister breached privilege of Parliament in a brazen manner," Anand Sharma, another senior parliamentarian said.

    Congress claims that the price of each Rafale jet negotiated under the erstwhile government led by Manmohan Singh was INR 526 crore ($79.065 million, approx.) which has gone up to INR 1670 crore  ($251.024 million approx.) under the present deal struck with France by the Modi government.

    Last week, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had made a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his speech during the no-confidence motion debate in the parliament. The Modi government countered Gandhi, accusing him of spreading falsehood and being disrespectful of international pacts.

    Meanwhile, unscathed by the controversy, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has reaffirmed that the deal is on track and that the delivery of Rafale fighter jets will start in September 2019. In a written reply in parliament, the minister said that the delivery of the 36 fighter jets will be completed by April 2022.

    READ MORE: Air Force Veteran Suggests India Should Go for More Russian Su-30MKI/Su-35

    As enumerated in the Indian constitution, if any individual or authority violates or disregards any of the privileges, powers and immunities of the Houses of Parliament or members or committees thereof, that individual may be punished for "breach of privilege" or "contempt of the House." The House has the power to determine what constitutes a breach of privilege and contempt. 

    A person found guilty of breach of privilege or contempt of the House may be punished either by imprisonment, or by admonition (warning) or reprimand. Two other punishments may also be awarded to the members for contempt, namely, "suspension" and "expulsion" from the House.


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    secrecy, scam, Defense Procurement, investigation, parliament, opposition, Indian Defense Ministry, Rahul Gandhi, Nirmala Sitharaman, Narendra Modi, A K Antony, India, France
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