SC names 3 secret Rafale documents accessed by media

SC names 3 secret Rafale documents accessed by media

The Supreme Court On Wednesday named the three documents on the basis of which, The Hindu newspaper published a series of reports sharply criticising the Rafale fighter aircraft deal which the Modi government had signed with France.

They are (1)an eight-page note, dated June 1, 2016, written by three members of the Indian Negotiating Team (2)Note 18 of the Ministry of Defence (File number AirHQ/S/96380/3/ASR PC-XXVI) and (3)Note-10 written by SK Sharma, deputy secretary in the MoD dated November 24, 2015.

While several reports based on the three documents were published in The Hindu, contents of the Note-18 was also published in The Wire, an online publications. The last two documents were marked “Secret” under the Official Secrets Act.

Even though the contents of the documents were not shared, the SC ruling said authenticity of the contents was not "seriously disputed or contested by the respondents."

A closer look at the documents by the SC may now give the judges a better understanding of the decision-making process in the Defence Ministry and open up the possibility of questioning that process.

The Defence Ministry had downplayed the dissent note. "The issue of dissent within the Indian Negotiated Team (INT) has been answered by the Defence Minister in the Parliament. In the highest traditions of the Civil Service, all views are aired and recorded and a collegiate decision taken after considering such opinions. Decisions on the deal were taken after due process of inter-ministerial consultation," it had said in January.

Sources said the INT had seven members, out of which three dissented, but the decisions were taken in a collegiate manner and even those who dissented signed on the final set of recommendations.

On one of the notes cited by The Hindu, the Defence Ministry had pointed out that the daily omitted the clarifications offered by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in the same note in response to the concerns raised by then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar.