Govt: Rafale files stolen. SC: Aren’t they still valid?

Govt: Rafale files stolen. SC: Aren’t they still valid?

Petitioners trying to destablise govt, relying upon stolen documents

When Bhushan referred to an article written by senior journalist N Ram in The Hindu newspaper, Attorney General K K Venugopal opposed it, saying his write-ups were based on stolen documents and an investigation into the theft is on. (PTI File Photo)

The Union government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that documents pertaining to purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France were stolen by some public servants and published in a newspaper. The inquiry is on. It would consider launching a prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

The top court, however, asked Attorney General K K Venugopal if the head of the department could file an affidavit in this regard. He agreed to do it by Thursday.

Attorney General K K Venugopal submitted before a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph that the file notings particularly related to defence purchases can't be the subject matter of judicial adjudication as it involved the issue of national security. He urged the court to dismiss a batch of review petitions against Rafale judgement of December 14 for relying upon those documents to question the deal.

He said a law should be laid down with regard to defence purchases as those concerned the very survival of the country.

The court should exercise restraint in this matter. Any statement from the court would destabilise the government. 

“If there is a declaration of war, should we come to court? It has taken six and seven years to finalise the deal. Recently we saw F-16s came to bomb us, how are to be defended,” Venugopal contended alluding to the Indo-Pak escalations.

“First Rafale was to be delivered by September. As many as 32 pilots have already been sent to France for training. This is the extent to which we are trying to protect the country. They want this not to be materialised,” Venugopal said.

The bench, however, asked the top law officer, “Should evidence be chucked out? In Bofors case also, documents were produced. We can say whosoever came to court were not bona fide, the whole exercise of putting documents in the public domain and using those were not bona fide. But the question is if the documents should be considered as untouchable.”

“Should documents be treated as non-est,” it further asked.

“Suppose a law is broken, should we take shelter under national security,” the court further asked.

Venugopal maintained that if documents are obtained unlawfully, it can't be looked into by the court.

Arguing for reconsideration of December 14 judgement, advocate Prashant Bhushan, arguing for former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, and Arun Shourie and himself, relied upon the documents published in the newspaper. He said the government has disclosed price and specifications in Parliament on earlier defence purchases. But this is the first time in the history of the CAG a redacted portion of the report was published, he said.

The court put the matter for further consideration on March 14.

During the hearing, the court refused to hear senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for AAP MP Sanjay Singh, for his remarks against the Rafale judgement.