In its affidavit before the Supreme Court in connection with the controversial Rafale case, the Centre on Wednesday told the apex court that petitioners attached sensitive documents pertaining to the combat aircraft in their review petition and that they put the national security in jeopardy as those papers are available to the country’s adversaries.
The government also said petitioners Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and activist advocate Prashant Bhushan are guilty of leaking sensitive information while seeking a review of the December 14, 2018 verdict, which dismissed all PILs seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in India’s Rafale deal with France.
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“This puts the national security in jeopardy. Without consent, permission or acquiescence of the Central Government, those who have conspired in making the photocopy of these sensitive documents and annexing it to the review petition/ miscellaneous application and thereby committing theft by unauthorized photocopying of such documents…have adversely affected the sovereignty, security and friendly relations with the foreign countries,” the affidavit said.
It said that even though the Centre “maintains secrecy”, the review petitioners are “guilty of leakage of sensitive information, which offends the terms of the agreements”.
“The petitioners are using unauthorisedly accessed documents with the intention to present a selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations on a matter relating to National Security and Defence,” the affidavit said.
Last week, the government had threatened to invoke the Official Secrets Act and initiate “criminal action” against two publications which ran reports on the basis of these documents, and Bhushan. It claimed that documents related to the Rafale fighter deal were “stolen” from the Ministry of Defence. READ | Defending Rafale deal, Govt unveils new weapon: Official Secrets Act
Attorney General K K Venugopal, who made this submission before a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, initially did not name the publications but later said “documents in the possession of The Hindu and ANI are stolen documents”.
On February 8, a report in The Hindu, citing a “Defence Ministry note” of November 2015, stated that the Ministry “raised strong objections to ‘parallel negotiations’ conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French side” in the Rafale deal. ANI released the same note with additional notings. Venugopal had said a probe into the theft was underway.