Rafale documents not stolen, petitioners used photocopies: Attorney General

Gaurav Joshi, 09/03/2019
Rafale documents not stolen, petitioners used photocopies: Attorney General

Attorney General K K Venugopal Friday claimed the Rafale documents were not stolen from the defence ministry and that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that petitioners in the application used “photocopies of the original” papers, deemed secret by the government.

His comments in the apex court on Wednesday that Rafale fighter jet deal documents were stolen caused a political row, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi targeting the government over stealing of such sensitive papers and seeking a criminal investigation.

“I am told that the opposition has alleged what was argued (in SC) was that files had been stolen from the defence ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect,” he told PTI, in an apparent damage-control exercise.

Venugopal said the application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushant, seeking from the court a review of its verdict dismissing pleas for a probe into against the Rafale deal, had annexed three documents which were photocopies of the original.

Official sources said the AG’s use of word stolen was probably “stronger” and could have been avoided.

The government had also warned The Hindu newspapers with a case under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these documents.

Brandishing the British-era Official Secrets Act, the government’s top legal officer had on Wednesday demanded that the Supreme Court turn down petitions seeking a review of its own December verdict rejecting a probe of the Rafale jet fighter deal, saying the petitioners’ case rested on stolen papers acquired from “present or former employees” of the defence ministry.

Arguing for the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, attorney general KK Venugopal had said at an open court hearing that the “documents relied on by the petitioners in their review petitions were stolen from the ministry and should not be relied on”.

“It’s a criminal act on the part of petitioners to bring these documents with them. They have come with unclean hands,” Venugopal had said. “Defence is the most important matter of state and national security. They have been illegally obtained and the source is not disclosed by the petitioners. It’s a privileged document. These documents have made the cost of weapons public and has been taken from notes and has been put in the petition.”

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