Even senior advocates like Prashant Bhushan make haste and… fail

A clinical analysis of some of the allegations leveled by Prashant Bhushan and their veracity

Perusal of some of the allegations leveled by Prashant Bhushan and their veracity
Perusal of some of the allegations leveled by Prashant Bhushan and their veracity

In an apparent attempt to revive his political fortunes after being kicked out by Arvind Kejriwal about two years ago, Prashant Bhushan, the reputed Supreme Court advocate, called a media meet on October 20 to reveal some “sensational” secrets connected with two Government Defence deals.

Using the new political platform, Swaraj Abhiyan, created by him and his former AAP colleague, Yogendra Yadav, now sitting by his side, Bhushan relied entirely on a letter (accompanied by emails and photographs) sent to Prime Minister Modi in September 2016 by C. Edmonds Allen whom Bhushan described as “a US-based lawyer.”

Citing and commenting on the various details in that letter and complaining that the Modi regime had not at all responded to it, the Bhushan-Yadav duo of Swaraj Abhiyan demanded that the government should:

  1. Take penal action against Varun Gandhi of the BJP who, as a member of the Parliamentary Defence Consultative Committee, been ‘honey trapped’ and ‘compromised’ by the notorious arms dealer Abhishek Verma, to whom he had continued to supply secret details about defence deals even after Verma had been sent to jail in a separate case.

  2. Register an FIR against Abhishek Verma and his associates as well as the similarly “compromised” officers of Navy and Indian Air Force named in the Allen documents for leaking defence secrets including the details of the six Scorpene submarines deal of 2005 in which, by the present Defence Minister’s own recent statement, he was aware that dalali had been paid but no action had been initiated by his government

  3. Blacklist and file an FIR against M/s Thales for payment of commission in Scorpene submarines deal; and

  4. Put the Rafale Jets deal on hold considering that the Messrs Thales of the corruption-ridden Scorpene deal is part of the Dassault company with which the government has signed for 36 Rafael jets which, quote, “are being purchased for more than double the cost of the 126 same in the deal signed earlier.” Simultaneously, the Modi government should give all details of the Rafale jet purchase negotiations from beginning to end.

All the above four demands emanating from the Allen documents are based on half-truths which, as we know, are part of the DNA of legal advocates, be they representing the prosecution or the defense side in a court of justice.

But first there is Bhushan’s description of Edmonds Allen being a “US-based lawyer” when the truth is that the man is (also?) an international arms dealer wherein “dealing-wheeling” is an accepted qualification. More hidden truths are that:

  • Allen and Verma were once business partners, wherein the former handled the latter’s US accounts, that

  • A Delhi metropolitan magistrate had, in June 2012, considered summoning Allen regarding Verma’s complaint against Allen, accusing him of cheating him out of Rs. 55 crores ($8.2 million) and forging emails to malign him, that

  • Verma, after their fallout, had issued instructions to Allen to release the $410 million stashed in an escrow account in the US, but Allen refused to do so, prompting Verma to file a legal suit in an American district court in February 2012 and that

  • Soon thereafter, Allen began writing letters detailing allegations against the businessman to the CBI, the ED, the CVC and even the FBI, and also sent around emails appearing to bear Verma’s signature to various media organizations in order to malign him.

The above should have provided Bhushan the motive behind Allen’s letter PM Modi, but looking for a motive is the first priority for a crime police investigator, not of a legal luminary presumably.

…a former General Lok Sabha General Secretary told a TV Channel in a debate that “sensitive” and “top secret” issues of a defence deal are never disclosed in that Committee…

Now to the four specific demands of the Bhushan-Yadav duo.

Regarding Varun Gandhi, the BJP man has in a letter on Twitter (reported in “The Sunday Guardian” of 23rd October this year) said that he did not attend even a single meeting of the Parliamentary Defence Consultative Committee. Further, as a former General Lok Sabha General Secretary told a TV Channel in a debate that “sensitive” and “top secret” issues of a defence deal are never disclosed in that Committee, except in rare cases when only the Committee’s Chairman is briefed about it when asked. And Gandhi said he has no idea of what Allen does except that reported in the press. And he has now vowed to meet his accusers in court.

Regarding the government being demanded to file an FIR against Verma for the alleged corruption in the Scorpene submarine deal, Bhushan seems to have forgotten that French submarine manufacturer Thales refuted the charges, with its country director in India, Francois Dupont, saying, “The emails are forgeries” and that on January 13, 2016 the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court dismissed the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) filed by Prashant Bhushan in 2007, thereby exonerating Abhishek Verma. If Bhushan still wants an FIR against Verma, it is he who should challenge the Delhi High Court verdict in the Supreme Court — it’s just 10 months old, after all.

Regarding the demand blacklisting Messrs Thales for paying a commission in securing the Scorpene deal, just one more info apart from the above-cited Delhi Court judgment. If the current Defence Minister expressed his knowledge about that dalali, blame the Report of the Comptroller of Auditor General which, in its Report of June 2009, found that “undue financial advantages” given to the suppliers of the Scorpene submarines included “agency commission”. By the way, Bhushan must note that in the armaments acquisition policy in that year, commissions had not been banned, but only an “integrity clause” was included in the contracts, whatever is the meaning of that clause. Hence, if he is so insistent, Bhushan should, to repeat, challenge the above-cited Delhi Court verdict.

Lastly, there is Bhushan’s demand for a hold on the present signed deal for Rafale jets pending full public disclosure of their so-called higher pricing compared with that of 126 Rafale jets proposed by the UPA government.

The facts are as follows:

It is important to note is that the basic price of the fighter approved now is $102 million (around Rs.680 crore per fighter) which is less than the $106 million (Rs.710 crore) per fighter approved by UPA then.

The tender price of $10.5 billion for 126 fighters by the UPA was just for the Basic Fighter itself. Further, it was just a Budget figure, a price just on paper and never proposed or accepted by Rafale. Thus, it was a non-negotiated price mentioned to go ahead with the deal and then as the deal progresses convey cost escalations as was the case for any Defense Deal during the UPA. The $10.5 billion Budget would have then escalated to beyond $20 billion and to even perhaps $30 billion.

Each Fighter is equipped with 150km ‘Beyond Visual Range’ Meteor Missiles & 300km Air to Land Precision Missiles. This weapons package has never been procured for any Fighter before.

But, the deal now signed consists of the following:

  1. The Basic Fighter at the approved price of $102 million

  2. India specific variations (which is a huge plus)

  3. Each Fighter is equipped with 150km ‘Beyond Visual Range’ Meteor Missiles & 300km Air to Land Precision Missiles. This weapons package has never been procured for any Fighter before.

  4. All Fighters are procured Basic and are then retrofitted with our Missiles, which leads to many operational failures. The Meteor Missile is five times more lethal than even the American AMRAAM missile of its same genre. The average cost of a missile of such range and capabilities is in excess of a $1.00 million each. And there are hundreds which have come along with this deal.

  5. There is a 50 per cent offset clause in the signed Rafale deal. This means that Indian businesses, both big and small, will gain work to the tune of over three billion Euros.

  6. These combat aircraft, delivery of which will start in 36 months and will be completed in 66 months from the date the contract is inked, comes equipped with state-of-the-art missiles weaponry that will give IAF a capability that had been sorely missing in its arsenal.

All in all, the redoubtable Prashant Bhushan has failed to attain a political landmark. He has been found wanting in doing the homework needed. In any profession, even the seniors need to do that. Otherwise, when they make, even they stumble and fall.

Note:
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 66.79 Rupees.
2. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
3. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Arvind Lavakare has been a freelance writer since 1957. He has written and spoken on sports on radio and TV. He currently writes on political issues regularly. His writings include a book on Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

His freelancing career began in "The Times of India" with a sports article published when he was a month shy of 20 years of age. He was also a regular political affairs columnist first for rediff.com for five years or so and then shifted to sify.com. He also wrote extensively for niticentral.com "till it stopped publication."

4 COMMENTS

  1. Very well argued as only Mr Lavakare can. Arguments with facts, devoid of emotion, a lesson for people like Mr Bhushan If Mr Bhushan has any integrity he must respond logically and with facts, otherwise publicly apologise and never repeat this sort of action in future. I often wonder if actions of persons like Bhushan are deliberate with a view to keeping India’s defence technologically backward and vulnerable.

  2. This Prashant Bhushan puzzles me.His father Shanthi was one of the biggest money makers as a SC senior lawyer of repute.Shanthi was one of the founder remember of Janata Party and even became India’s law minister.Due to infighting in Janata party,split into many pieces of which BJP is one part.Shanti getting piqued of infighting, wanted no part of political parties staying away.But the puzzle is why Shanti/Prashant who were hateful of congress crooked ways are big fans of anotonia?What is their special affinity?Why this Prashant whose father once had JanSangh links became a rabid BJP hater? and a hardcore naxalite?I wish Prashant was not a naxalite or a anotonia fanboy but a pure anti govt. crusader.In fact given some more time, these BJPians will be the B team of congress in many ways.His is a brilliant mind gone to seed due to some deep seated hate of sanghis and the jokers like useless scums like yoyos exploiting it.I hope he sees sense in his idiotic ways and become a true blue transparent crusader of the people.He has nothing to loose nor does he require anything from anyone.We need plenty of independent bloody minded honest crusaders to cleanse the system of dakus and crooks of first order.Will he change his ways or too much dipped into violent ways of naxalites?

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