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Documents in Rafale Review Pleas Put National Security in Jeopardy, Photocopy Amounts to Theft: Govt to SC

Documents in Rafale Review Pleas Put National Security in Jeopardy, Photocopy Amounts to Theft: Govt to SC

The central government on Wednesday filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in the Rafale deal case, saying that the documents attached in the review petitions are sensitive to national security.

The affidavit, filed by the ministry of defence, asks the court to reject the petitions and states that leakage of documents on the fighter jet deal from the ministry through photocopying amounted to theft. It claimed that the documents are sensitive to national security as they relate to war capacity of the combat aircraft.

In the affidavit, the government said the review plea filed by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie as also activist advocate Prashant Bhushan has been widely circulated and is available to the country's enemy and adversaries.

"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.

The Supreme Court is hearing a bunch of review petitions against its December verdict in the case, which dismissed the plea for a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry. The court will continue the hearing on Thursday.

On March 6, the Centre had vociferously opposed the review petitions and asked the SC to dismiss them as they were based on documents “stolen” from the ministry of defence. “It’s a criminal act on the part of petitioners to bring these documents with them. They have come with unclean hands,” Attorney General KK Venugopal had said.

However, the government made a U-turn two days later as the Attorney General said the documents were not stolen, but the petitioners were using “photocopies of the original” papers.

The comments made the government's top legal officer in the apex court that files were stolen had caused a political storm, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi leading the opposition parties in targeting the government over theft of such sensitive papers. The parties had demanded an investigation.

Venugopal had informed the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi-led bench on March 6 that documents cited by The Hindu newspaper in its reports on the controversial Rafale deal were stolen and cannot be shown in court as it would affect national security. The government had also warned The Hindu with a case under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these documents.

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