Secret Rafale deal documents stolen from Indian Defence Ministry: Indian media report
ISLAMABAD - The Modi government Wednesday told the Indian Supreme Court that the documents related to Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and the petitioners seeking a review of its verdict dismissing all pleas against the purchase of the jets relied upon those documents, reported *The Hindu. link*
Indian SC began the open court hearing, during which former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition, alleged that the Centre suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs against the Rafale deal in December.
When Bhushan referred to an article. Indian Attorney General KK Venugopal opposed it, saying that the articles were based on stolen documents and an investigation into the matter is on.
Venugopal said the first article by the senior journalist on February 8. Wednesday’s *The Hindu* report was aimed at influencing the proceedings and that amounted to contempt of court, he said.
While Venugopal was seeking dismissal of the review petitions and raising objections to Bhushan’s arguments based on the articles published in *The Hindu,* the bench sought to know from the Centre what has it done when it is alleging that the stories are based on stolen material.
The AG also submitted that the documents on the deal relied on by the petitioners were marked secret and classified, and therefore, are in violation of Official Secrets Act.
Advancing his arguments on behalf of Sinha, Shourie and himself, Bhushan said critical facts on Rafale were suppressed when the petition for an FIR and investigation were filed.
He said that the top court would not have dismissed the plea for FIR and probe into Rafale deal had there not been suppression of facts.
However, Venugopal said the documents relied upon by Bhushan were stolen from the Defence Ministry and an investigation into the matter was underway.
At this point, the CJI said that hearing Bhushan did not mean that the top court was also taking on record the documents on the Rafale deal.
The Rafale deal was agreed by the Manmohan Singh government with France, but Modi changed its terms, which the opposition says was aimed to benefit a businessman close to the prime minister.
“The country has felt the shortage of Rafale. Today, India is speaking in one voice and saying what all could have happened if we had Rafale. Ego politics over the Rafale deal has harmed the nation,” the prime minister said at the India Today Conclave 2019 in Delhi.