The Congress is demanding that CAG Rajiv Mehrishi should recuse himself from auditing and submitting a report on the Rafale deal due to a “conflict of interest."

NEW DELHI: It seems the Congress party has made an about turn on its stand on the Rafale jet deal report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). Earlier it wanted the CAG to give the report as soon as possible but now says he should recuse himself as he has a conflict of interest.

The Congress is demanding that CAG Rajiv Mehrishi should recuse himself from auditing and submitting a report on the Rafale deal due to a “conflict of interest.” The party said that Mehrishi, as the then Union finance secretary, was part of the Narendra Modi government’s internal negotiations. Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and former Union law minister Kapil Sibal on Sunday placed this demand to Mehrishi in an official memorandum. The Congress move comes amid indications that the CAG may give its report on the deal in a few days.

However, a few months ago the Congress wanted the CAG to present his report, and fast. In September, a delegation of senior Congress leaders met the CAG on the Rafale deal and asked the auditor to prepare a report on alleged irregularities in it.

"We have given a detailed memorandum along with enclosures on the irregularities and acts of omission and commission by the Government in the fighter jet deal. We expect the CAG will prepare a report soon and present it before Parliament," senior Congress leader Anand Sharma told reporters after meeting the CAG. Far from citing any conflict of interest and asking him to recuse, the Congress even submitted some evidence to the CAG. 

Again in October, the Congress urged the CAG to carry out a forensic audit of the Rafale fighter jet deal and bring all facts on record to enable Parliament to fix accountability for the alleged scam in the contract. The party leaders presented a memorandum to him along with fresh documents. Quite contrary to its present stand, the party said in its memorandum that the CAG being a constitutional body must audit the deal. "It is expected that the CAG which has a Constitutional mandate and authority to scrutinise every document, in this case including original tender, understanding reached between Dassault and HAL and the arbitrary decision of the Prime Minister without any mandate from Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) will undertake a forensic audit," the memorandum said.

Now the Congress does not want to the same CAG, Rajiv Mehrishi, to present an audit report on Rafale deal. Congress leader Kapil Sibal said in a press conference yesterday, “Mehrishi was officially associated with the Modi government’s internal negotiations on the Rafale deal… If he audits and submits a report as CAG, it would mean that Mehrishi is trying to save himself and the government from the corruption in the Rafale aircraft deal…. The cardinal principle of law is that no one should be a judge in his own case.”