Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Rafale contract documents stolen from Defence Ministry, Attorney General Venugopal tells SC

The Union government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the documents related to Rafale fighter aircraft deal have been stolen from the Ministry of Defence (MoD), and the petitioners seeking a review of the verdict dismissing all pleas against the purchase of the jets relied upon those papers.

A three-judge Bench, comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S.K. Kaul and K.M. Joseph, began the open court hearing of the Rafale case, during which former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition, alleged that the Central government suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PIL (public interest litigation) petitions against the Rafale deal in December.

When Mr. Bhushan referred to an article written by The Hindu's N. Ram, Attorney General (AG) K.K. Venugopal opposed it, saying that the articles were based on stolen documents and an investigation into the matter was on.
Mr. Venugopal said the first article by the senior journalist appeared in The Hindu on February 8. The Hindu report on March 6 was aimed at influencing the proceedings and that amounted to contempt of court, he added.

While Mr. Venugopal was seeking dismissal of the review petitions and raising objections to Bhushan’s arguments based on the articles published in The Hindu, the Bench sought to know from the Centre what had it done when it was alleging that the stories were based on stolen material.

The AG submitted that the documents relied on by the petitioners were marked secret and classified, and therefore, are in violation of the Official Secrets Act.

Advancing his arguments on behalf of Mr. Sinha, Mr. Shourie and himself, Mr. Bhushan said critical facts on the Rafale deal were suppressed when the petition for an FIR and investigation were filed.

He said that the top court would not have dismissed the plea for FIR and probe into Rafale deal had there not been suppression of facts.

However, Mr. Venugopal said the documents relied upon by Mr. Bhushan were stolen from the Defence Ministry and an investigation into the matter was on.

At this point, the CJI said that hearing Mr. Bhushan did not mean that the court was also taking on record the documents.
06/03/19 PTI/The Hindu

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