Theft of sensitive Rafale papers undermines national security, govt tells SC
13 March 2019
Those who “conspired by making photocopies of the sensitive Rafale documents and used those in the review petition (of SC's December 14 verdict) have thereby committed theft, adversely affecting the security, sovereignty and friendly relations with a foreign country,” the defence ministry stated in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court today.
The action of petitioners, who wanted a review of the verdict in the Rafale case, has brought classified documents into public domain, putting national security at risk the government told the apex court.
Referring to The Hindu publishing sensitive Rafale documents, the affidavit stated that such unauthorised photocopying of secret documents amounted to theft. The defence ministry said the petitioners have no right to use sensitive Rafale documents, which only endangered national security and vitiated relations with a friendly country.
The defence ministry filed the affidavit after getting the Supreme Court’s permission to present its case following the filing of review petitions filed in the court by former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
A defence ministry spokesman also justified an earlier stand taken by the Attorney General KK Venugopal that the papers were stolen. Venugopal later stated that the petitioners have ‘photocopies of the original papers”, which were protected under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
In either case, the defence ministry spokesman said, obtaining the papers through illegal means amounted to theft of secret government documents – it is not the papers themseleves, but the contents that mattered.
The matter will come up for hearing tomorrow; the SC had earlier adjourned the hearing till 14 March after the government claimed that certain documents pertaining to the deal were stolen from the defence ministry.
The government has asked that the petitions in the case - who want a review of the Court's December verdict that gave a clean to the Narendra Modi government over the deal for the fighter jets - be dismissed. The government has also contended that those asking for a review relying on "secret documents" are violating the Official Secrets Act, for which the punishment is jail or fine.
"These documents are privileged ones under Officials Secret Act and without the Centre's permission, can't be put in public domain," the government told the court.
Those who have photocopied the documents have "offended India's agreement with foreign country" as the agreement has a secrecy clause, the government said. The documents, the court was further told, gives an incomplete picture.