'Unauthorised docs used to mislead SC in Rafale case'

'Unauthorised docs used to mislead SC in Rafale case'

Act putting security into jeopardy amounts to theft

A day before the crucial hearing, the Union government on Wednesday sought permission from the Supreme Court for filing an affidavit in the matter related the 2016 deal for buying Rafale fighter jets from France. DH file photo

The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that secret documents pertaining to the Rafale deal were unauthorisedly accessed by photocopying, which amounted to theft. This has also put national security into jeopardy and affected sovereignty and friendly relations.

The review petition and other applications filed jointly by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan against the dismissal of their plea on December 14, 2018, for a probe by the top court relied upon those documents with an intention to “mislead” the court and “arrive at wrong conclusion”, it said.

“Those who conspired in this leakage by unauthorised photocopying are guilty of penal offences, including theft. These matters are now subject of an internal enquiry which commenced on February 28,” Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra said in an affidavit.

“It is of utmost concern to the central government to find out where the leakage took place so that in future, the sanctity of decision-making process in governance is maintained,” the affidavit said.

A day before the crucial hearing, the Union government, through a counsel, sought permission from the court for filing an affidavit in the matter related to the 2016 deal for buying fighter jets from France.

The top court had on March 7, the last date of hearing, asked Attorney General K K Venugopal if the head of the department could file an affidavit as he claimed the documents pertaining to the purchase of jets from France were stolen by some public servants and published in a newspaper.

The government also claimed that the petitioners unauthorisedly accessed documents with the intention to present a “selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations” on a matter relating to national security and defence.

“The documents presented by the petitioners are failing to bring out how the issues were addressed and resolved and necessary approvals of the competent authorities taken. The selective and incomplete presentation of facts and records by the petitioners are intended to mislead this court into deriving wrong conclusions, which is very damaging to national security and public interest,” it said.

The government maintained that the documents belonged to a class in respect of which privilege was claimed under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. It sought a direction to remove those documents relating to deliberations before the deal.

“Secrecy was envisaged in the various agreements that the central government had entered into with the foreign government concerned and others concerning matters of national security. Even though the central government maintains secrecy, the petitioners and the deponent of the affidavit of the review petition are guilty of leakage of sensitive information, which offends the terms of the agreements,” the government said in an eight-page affidavit.

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