Rafale documents stolen: Centre tells SC

THE Government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that documents related to the Rafale aircraft deal have were privileged documents and they have been stolen from the Defence Ministry. The Government also threatened a newspaper with action under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on those. Those who put documents on the Rafale deal in the public domain are guilty under the Official Secrets Act and contempt of court, Attorney General K K Venugopal said before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.

Referring to the dissent note by the three members of India Negotiating Team (INT) in the eight-page note, Attorney Venugopal told the bench also comprising of, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K M Joseph that it was being probed if they were stolen by former or present employees.
An investigation into the theft is on, the Attorney General said on a day ‘The Hindu’ newspaper published another article on the fighter jet deal. The bench, also including Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a review of its December 14 verdict dismissing all the pleas against the deal procured by India from France.

Former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed a petition, alleged that the Centre suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs against the Rafale deal in December. When Bhushan referred to an article written by senior journalist N Ram in ‘The Hindu’, Venugopal said the write-ups were based on stolen documents.

An FIR has not been registered so far into the theft of documents pertaining to Rafale deal, he added. He said that the first write-up by Ram appeared in ‘The Hindu’ on February 8 and Wednesday’s edition had another article aimed at influencing the court’s proceedings. This amounted to contempt of court, he said. The newspaper published the documents by omitting the word ‘secret’ on top, he said, seeking a dismissal of the review petitions and raising objections to Bhushan’s arguments based on the ‘The Hindu’s’ articles.

The bench sought to know from the Centre what it has done when it alleges that the stories are based on stolen material. Advancing his arguments on behalf of Sinha, Shourie and himself, Bhushan said the top court would not have dismissed the plea for an FIR and probe had critical facts not been suppressed.  Venugopal said the documents relied upon by Bhushan were stolen from the Defence Ministry and an investigation into the matter was underway.

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