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Supreme Court asks government what it did after it says Rafale documents were stolen

File photo: The Supreme Court of India. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 06, 2019, 04.09 PM (IST)

The Supreme Court asked the government Wednesday what it did after documents related to the Rafale deal were allegedly stolen from the defence ministry. The allegation was made by Attorney General KK Venugopal. 

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a review petition of its December 2018 verdict on the Rafale deal which had said the deal did not need to be probed. 

The review petition is being heard by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph. The petitioners include former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and the advocate Prashant Bhushan. 

Bhushan had on Wednesday referred to a newspaper article, when Venugopal said the write-ups were based on stolen documents and that an investigation into the "theft" is ongoing. 

Venugopal said the reports were published "to influence the mind of court". 

To which Bhushan replied: “Before AG begins, like to bring to your notice that any attempt to intimidate petitioners before the court amounts to criminal contempt.  When AG says we are going to prosecute not only newspapers but also petitioners, it amounts to intimidation” 

Venugopal then said: “The stolen documents were not supposed to be in public domain. RTI will not apply to security of state and to acts affecting friendly relations with foreign states. Look at the damage this article has done.”

Venugopal then said the acquisition of the Rafales “has taken six and seven years", while referring to the current tensions between India and Pakistan. "F-16 came to bomb us, how are we to be defended? First Rafale was to be delivered by September... 32 pilots sent to France for training.

"This is extent to which we are trying to protect the country. They want this not to be materialised," he added. 

Justice Joseph then replied to the attorney general that national security cannot be used to cover up a possible act of commission. 

"Suppose a law is broken, should we take shelter under national security?" he asked. 

And he added that "stolen documents can be looked into, even if they are acquired illegally.” 

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Venugopal told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the source of the document (on which the write-up in The Hindu was based) should be disclosed to the court by the people who published it. 

Bhushan meanwhile reminded the court that "in Coalgate and 2G scam cases, I brought documents from a whistleblower". 

The matter was adjourned till March 14. 

Story highlights

The court is currently hearing a review petition of its December 2018 verdict on the Rafale deal which had said the deal did not need to be probed.