13 May 2005


From Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: Former Defence Minister George Fernandes on Friday exposed the Government's Phukan cover-up by himself releasing the Phukan Commission's report on the Tehelka Tapes that Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee tabled in both the Houses of Parliament but not giving to the Media.

What the Media got after nearly two hours of discussions at the highest level after the report was tabled was only the "accompanying note" explaining why the Government was rejecting the Phukan Commission's report and not the actual report.

Lest the Media get carried away by the Government propaganda that Justice Phukan did not give any clean chit to Fernandes if it went by the 5-page note, he procured the report tabled in Parliament himself and released it at a Press conference at his residence here to nail the lie that the Commission did not examine the corruption issue at all.

Fernandes released the report at 4 PM and the Government quickly doubled up around 5 pm to give copies of the report to a select few journalists to escape the charge that it had tried to cover up the report just because it gives a clean chit to the former defence minister and NDA convener.

The Government took the ground in the note that the Commission violated (B) part of the terms of reference wanting it to inquire whether in any of the procurement transactions in the Tehelka Tapes any "illicit gains have been made by persons in public office, individual, and any other organization as alleged, and if so, to what extent.

"The Government has not found it possible to accept its (commission's) findings in the absence of any inquiry on the allegations of corruption, which was to be done under term "B" of the terms of reference," the note said. It went on to assert that "even the conclusions arrived at by Justice Phukan are bereft of reasoning."

The actual Commission report, however, records that "after examining the records of each past transactions and the evidence both oral and documentary has recorded specific findings in each of reports relating to 15 past transactions that no illegality or irregularity has been committed by Mr George Fernandes, as Defence Minister in relation to the said 15 transactions."

The report further says that "therefore, the Commission is of the opinion that his reputation, as Defence Minister, in respect of past transactions was not in any way prejudicially affected and hence no recommendation is called for against him in respect of the above transactions." How do you expect the judge to unearth corruption as the Congress and allies wanted when there was no corruption as "I have not taken a bribe of even a pai in whole of my life," Fernandes asked.

In a signed statement, Fernandes also pooh-poohed the claim in the government's note that Justice Phukan in arriving at his conclusions "has not appropriately dealt with the submissions of the Commission's counsel, submitted in writing, with reference to almost all the 15 transactions, that cases of wrongdoing with reference to most of the transactions were made out, without absolving any particular individual."

"This is akin to saying that the government will disregard an order of the Supreme Court because the submissions of the Attorney General were not considered," Fernandes said. He pointed out that different counsel give different arguments and the Court is not supposed to give cognizance to all of them.

Fernandes also pointed out a circular received by all MPs only on Friday from the Prime Minister's Office listing developments during the UPA government's one year in office. It says the Phukan Commission was wound up because it did not give any report. Pranab Mukherjee nails the lie by laying the report in Parliament but he calls it "part report" to justify the government's failure in tabling it within six months as stipulated under the Commission of Inquiry Act. It is actually the final report so far as the inquiry into 15 transactions was concerned as stressed by Justice Phukan in the report, Fernandes said.

In the note accompanying the report, the Government claimed that the Attorney General's advice was that the Government was not obliged to table a "part report" of the Commission in Parliament but it was laying the part report, though it is necessarily an incomplete one" just because of the directions of the Speaker to lay the report.

Fernandes also ridiculed as "lame excuse" the argument advanced in the note by the Government that it wound up the Commission and transferred the inquiry into the said 15 transactions to the CBI because the Commission could not complete its work "in spite of a period of more than three and a half years." There are many commissions, including the Librehan Commission, that have been going on for many, many years and yet they were not wound up, he said.

He also accused the Congress and its allies and their members of Parliament, who are now ministers in the UPA Government, who sabotaged the functioning of the Inquiry Commission by leveling charges against Justice Venkataswamy, who was earlier heading the commission, to resign and then the government counsel seeking repeated adjournments to prevent Justice Phukan complete his task.

The Commission was hurriedly wound up when it was "on its very last leg with only final arguments left to be addressed" as his further findings would have nailed all their lies and exposed them.

Ferbabdes oiubted iyt out that the Congress-led UPA government is trying its best to hang him even for the defence transactions that were concluded during the Congress regime and when he was not the defence minister.

He cited from the Phukan Commission's report tabled that he cannot be held guilty for transactions done in 1992 or 1993 as he became the Defence Minister only on August 19, 1998. Armoured recovery vehicle deal that was contracted in 1993.

Fernandes said the Commission has found him not guilty in each and every of the 15 deals allegedly exposed by the Tehelka Tapes and yet the Government has now restarted the inquiry in the same deals through the CBI only to try to establish corruption that does not exist except in the mind of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other leaders of Congress and allies.

Para by para, the Commission has given a clean chit to Fernandes after examining each case. Here are the findings so far his role is concerned in 14 other cases besides the armoured vehicle case referred above:

Image intensifier tubes: "George Fernandes had no role to play in the transaction and the files were dealt with at the official level only.

Carl Gustav Rocket Launcher: There is nothing adverse on record against George Fernandes and there is no violation of DPP (defence procurement policy) of 1992.

Simulators: George Fernandes is no way involved in the transaction at any stage as the files relating to this transaction "never went beyond the RRM (Minister of State for Defence)."

Light Weight Binoculars: The Commission did not find any involvement of George Fernandes in the present transaction and at no point of time the files were placed before him as the decisions were taken at the level of Additional Secretary in Defence Ministry.

Hand held thermal imagers: George Fernandes, as Defence Minister,did not commit any illegality or irregularity.

KRASNOPOL: George Fernandes, as Defence Minister, has not committed any irregularity or illegality.

Advanced Jet Trainer: No irregularity and/or illegality has been committed by George Fernandes as Defence Minister.

BARAK ANTI-MISSILE DEFENCE SYSTEM: No illegality and/irregularity was committed by George Fernandes as Defence Minister in relation to the procurement of Barak System.

T-90 TANKS: George Fernandes as Defence Minister has not done anything contrary to the requirements of DPP 1992 and did not commit any illegality or irregularity.

UPGUNNING OF 130 MM GUNS TO 155 MM GUNS: George Fernandes is found to be in no way connected to the lapses and/or violation of DPP 1992 and no illegality or irregularity has been committed by him.

TANK NAVIGATION SYSTEM: No illegality or irregularity by Fernandes.

KANDLA-BHATINDA PIPELINE PROJECT: George Fernandes was not involved, in any way, as defence minister in the transaction.

SUKHOI AIRCRAFT: It relates to the contract signed on November 30, 1996 when Fernandes was not Defence Minister. As regards another contract signed on 28.12.2000, there is no evidence indicating or suggesting anything against Fernandes.

KORNET-E: George Fernandes had not committed any illegality or irregularity as Defence Minister.