‘Secret documents in Rafale review plea jeopardize national security’: Centre to Supreme Court
The Centre has also argued that the documents presented a “selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations” on a matter relating to national security and defence.Updated: Mar 13, 2019 19:32 IST
The widely-circulated review petition against the Supreme Court’s December verdict in the Rafale deal that includes leaked defence ministry documents jeopardizes national security and should be dismissed, the defence ministry has told the Supreme Court in an affidavit filed on Wednesday.
The Centre has also argued that the documents presented a “selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations” on a matter relating to national security and defence.
It reasoned that the petition should be dismissed and the documents removed from the top court’s records.
The government also claimed privilege over the documents presented under the evidence law for courts and insisted that the court could not take them into consideration without the government’s permission.
Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra told the top court that the petitioners had attached documents relating to war capacity of India’s combat jets. “This information is now available to our adversaries...This puts the national security in jeopardy,” the top defence ministry official said.
The government also told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Rajnan Gogoi that an internal inquiry into the leaks had started.
The petitioners are guilty of leakage of sensitive information, which offends the terms of the agreements for purchase of the fighter jets, the government said. Additionally, those who have conspired in this leakage are guilty of penal offences under the Indian Penal Code including theft by unauthorized photocopying and leakage of sensitive official documents affecting national security.
In the last Supreme Court hearing, the Centre’s top law officer, attorney general KK Venugopal, had asked the court to reject petitions seeking review of the Rafale verdict claiming that the petitioners’ case rested on stolen papers acquired from “present or former employees” of the defence ministry.
Brandishing the British-era Official Secrets Act, Venugopal had said that it was a “criminal act” on the part of petitioners to bring the documents with them. “They have come with unclean hands,” he had said.
A judge of the SC bench had, however, questioned the attorney general’s reasoning and asked if the government intended to “take shelter under national security when the allegation is of grave crime or corruption”.
The government’s stand in the Supreme Court led to a political storm with Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying that the new motto of the government should be “gayab ho gaya” (gone missing). He also challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to face an investigation over alleged wrongdoing in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Attorney general Venugopal later said that the Rafale documents were not stolen from the defence ministry and that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that petitioners in the application used “photocopies of the original” papers, deemed secret by the government.
Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and lawyer Prashant Bhushan have filed a petition seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s December verdict, which found that there was “no occasion to doubt” the decision-making process behind the 2016 purchase of 36 jet fighters from Dassault Aviation of France in a ₹59,000 crore deal.