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.
"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.
Did the UPA Govt not disclose the price of INS Vikramaditya, Mirage aircraft, Sukhoi aircraft and Kaveri engine on the floor of the Parliament?— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) July 20, 2018
What prevents the Modi Govt from disclosing the #Rafale price then?
Is the wrong doing not apparent? 7/ pic.twitter.com/EG14r9JIp4
"The defense minister and the prime minister breached privilege of Parliament in a brazen manner," Anand Sharma, another senior parliamentarian said.
Rahul Gandhi is lying on Rafale deal. Here is what French President Emmanuel Macron had to say on the deal —— BJP (@BJP4India) July 20, 2018
"Obviously you have competitors and we can't let them know details of the deal. In India and in France, when the deal is very sensitive, we can't reveal details." pic.twitter.com/PvFmSbTnGy
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.
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.
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.