The Anil Ambani-led Reliance group today said it will file a Rs 5,000-crore defamation suit against Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi for making “false and defamatory statements”. A Reliance group spokesperson said: “Abhishek Singhvi has made false, defamatory and libellous statements against the group. We will be filing a Rs 5,000-crore suit for damages against Singhvi for making these false and defamatory statements.”
Earlier in the day, Singhvi had accused Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of “fooling” people with his statement that no loans of big defaulters have been waived and claimed that the government had written off Rs 1.88 lakh crore debt of those who had wilfully defaulted.
“We all know that top 50 corporates owe Rs 8.35 lakh crore to banks and out of those, three top Gujarat-based companies — Reliance (Anil Ambani Group), Adani and Essar — owe Rs 3 lakh crore.
“One of them had last month publicly declared that they are shutting their telecom business with a liability of Rs 45,000 crore due to banks.
“We would like to ask Finance Minister Arun Jaitley that far from declaring it as NPAs, you are trying to help the defaulter with further defence contracts like the Rafale deal. Why?” Singhvi asked.
Alleging that a “scam is brewing” in the purchase of Rafel aircraft, the Congress party on Tuesday accused the Centre of “promoting the interests of Prime Minister’s crony capitalist friends.”
Addressing a press conference, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said the Modi government had violated the defence procurement procedure (DPP) and bypassed the interests of the defence public sector undertaking, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
“On April 10, Prime Minister Modi visits France and announces the deal for purchase of 36 Rafel fighter aicraft in flyaway condition. This was done unilaterally without following the DPP, without any inter-governmental agreement and in the absence of India’s Defence Minister. However, Mr. Anil Ambani, owner of Reliance Defence Limited, was present in France during the Prime Minister’s visit,” said Mr. Surjewala.
Reliance Defence Limited called the Congress allegations “baseless” and “unfounded” and asked the party to gets its facts right.
“Shri Anil Ambani is a member of Indo-French CEO Forum. In the said meeting, more than 20 CEOs were present,” said a statement from the Reliance Defence Limited.
The Congress leader claimed that while the UPA government had signed the Rafel deal as a joint venture between its French maker, Dassault Aviation, and India’s HAL, the Modi government cancelled the entire process on July 30, 2015.
This in turn, alleged the Congress party, helped Reliance Defence Limited as they entered into a joint venture with Dassault.
Giving out a chronological sequence of the deal, the Congress party said while India signed the $8.7 billion deal on September 23 last year, just 10 days later, on October 3, 2016, Reliance Defence Limited entered into a joint venture with the French fighter plane maker.
“It is time for the PM to answer why the planes were bought at such an inflated costs? Is it not true that as per UPA-negotiated price, the cost of one plane was ₹526.1 crore whereas under the NDA, the plane is costing ₹1570 crore? Why was the transfer of technology for HAL not insisted upon? And finally, has the joint venture between Dassault and Reliance Defence been cleared by the Union Cabinet?” asked the Congress leader.
Countering the Congress charge, Reliance Defence said the joint venture was between two private entities and the government didn’t have a role.
“Government policy issued on 24 June 2016 allows for 49% FDI in the defence sector under the automatic route, without any prior approval. No approvals from the Union Cabinet or CCS were required for the formation of the aforesaid joint venture company under the automatic route,” said the statement from Reliance Defence Limited.
When the Congress leader was asked why the party was raising the issue now, especially since all the facts about the Rafel deal were in public domain, Mr. Surjewala said, “No, we had raised it then as well. Former Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Manish Tewari and myself had raised it outside as well in Parliament. We were told that nothing has been signed. The deal has been signed last September and since then we have trying to gather information.”