Documents of Rafale Deal have been stolen from the Defense Ministry: Attorney General Venugopal

Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court, which is hearing review petitions in the Rafale deal case, on Wednesday that the defense ministry had stolen documents related to the purchase of the fighter jets.

The government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it might use the Official Secrets Act against a national daily to publish stories about the Rafale jet deal based on classified documents stolen from the Ministry of Defence. “The Publication of Defence Ministry notes that the Rafale deal violates Section 3 (spying) and 5 (wrongful communication of confidential information),” Attorney General K K Venugopal stated in front of a three-judge bench headed by Ranjan Gogai, the Chief Justice of India.

Those who make them public may also be charged with contempt of court, he said, adding that he will file an affidavit on Thursday outlining the proposed course of action against the offenders.
Later, N Ram, the chairman of The Hindu group, told the media that he wrote the signed pieces because they were of public interest and that he would use his right to protect his sources.

While the court set March 14 for a new hearing in the case, Venugopal opposed any review of its December decision on the Rafale deal.
He claimed that petitioners Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, and Prashant Bhushan had failed to reveal who in the ministry had stolen the documents.

“If an FIR is filed, it will name the petitioners, the newspaper, and the reporters as accused,” the A-G stated, adding that the entire effort was to postpone the purchase of the 36 fighter jets.
He also cited the recent Indo-Pak conflict, in which old MiGs were scrambled to take on far better Pakistani F-16s, to highlight the importance of the Rafale purchases. However, the bench stated that the acquisition was not on hold. It also stated that if the documents were stolen, it was the responsibility of the government to clean the house.

“You may call into question the petitioners’ credibility and request that we examine those documents with suspicion. However, saying that something that is now in the public domain is untouchable for us may not be the correct legal argument,” the bench pointed out.
In 2016, the Narendra Modi government agreed to purchase Rafale fighter jets from France. Dassault Aviation, a French company, will supply 36 Rafale fighter jets to India in flyaway conditions under the Rs 59,000-crore deal.

“Recent events have shown how sensitive it is when it comes to defense purchases… Such evaluations will influence future purchases. Countries would be hesitant to participate. They would say we would have to go through parliament, TV channels, and finally the court,” Venugopal said in response to the review petitions in the Rafale deal case.

Justice Joseph’s argument
If the plea for investigation is not considered, the issue of national security does not arise. Are you going to hide behind national security when there are allegations of a serious crime or corruption?

Response by the Attorney General
This is the only country where a court examines a defense agreement as if it were an administrative matter. Defense procurement is not subject to judicial review. Do we have to go to court to justify declaring war or declaring peace? Do we need to come to court all the time?

The Supreme Court dismissed the petitions, observing that the Rafale deal was signed following due process. The court also stated that there was no “commercial favoritism” in the contract.

Ending Note
Whatever the reasons are but documents of a huge defense deal as big as the Rafael fighter jet with France being stolen from the ministry is a very serious matter. It cannot be commented whether the documents are actually stolen or the government is lying in order to hide something fishy but in both cases this cannot be a small matter and should be highlighted to bring out the truth.

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