Rafale deal documents published by the Hindu were stolen from MoD, government informs Supreme Court

Representing the Government, Attorney General KK Venugopal on Wednesday informed the court that various classified documents and notes pertaining to the Rafale fighter jet deal between the Governments of India and France, were stilled from the Ministry of Defence. He further said that some of the stolen documents made it to a national daily, hinting at N Ram led, the Hindu newspaper.

Venugopal was representing the Government at a review petition filed by Prashant Bhushan against Supreme Court’s December 14, 2018, judgment in which it had refused to order a probe into the deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter planes from France.

The Attorney Generally also objected to Prashant Bhushan’s attempts of presenting certain classified documents before the Court. “We are dealing with defence purchases which involve the security of the state. It is a very sensitive case,” he told the apex court adding that the Centre is considering the invoking the Official Secrets Act on this issue.

“Due to this other countries may be hesitant in doing deals as they feel they will have to pass through all media attention, public domain and court proceedings,” the Attorney General added.

On January 2, petitioners in Rafale fighter jet deal case — Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, both former Union Ministers, and Prashant Bhushan, a noted lawyer — had moved the apex court for review of its Rafale judgment of December 14.

They had asked for recalling of the judgement and had also sought an oral hearing in the open court for their review plea.

Their petition states that the December 14 verdict contained several errors and also it relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the Government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover to the court, which is a violation of the principle of natural justice.

They also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signed an agreement for 36 Rafale jets on April 10, 2015, without any such requirement of 36 jets being given by the Air Force Headquarters and without the approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which are the mandated first steps for any defence procurement.

Earlier, on December 14 last year, the apex court had dismissed all petitions seeking court-monitored probe into Rafale fighter jet deal with France, saying that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the deal.

The top court had also said that it was not its job to go into the issue of pricing of fighter planes.