Modi Govt Claims Documents Linked To Rafale Fighter Jet Deal Were Stolen Also Indicate Action Against Newspaper The Hindu

In the Supreme Court, attorney general K.K. Venugopal also indicated that action may be taken against two newspapers including The Hindu for publication of those documents.

Source: The Wire

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has informed the Supreme Court that documents linked to the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal were stolen and that newspapers that published ministry files may have violated the Official Secrets Act.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph assembled on Wednesday morning to hear a review petition in the Rafale matter.

Senior advocate and review petitioner Prashant Bhushan began by noting that the apex court had unknowingly relied on “erroneous facts” while delivering its earlier judgement and that new documents, in the form of news reports published in The Hindu, should now be taken on record.

It was at this point that Attorney General K.K. Venugopal rose and submitted that documents relied by the petitioners and The Hindu were stolen from the defence ministry and that the Centre was contemplating a probe under the Official Secrets Act.

“I have an objection! These documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry by some former employee and the investigation is ongoing. These documents are marked secret and were published by two newspapers…this is an offence under the Official Secrets Act. We would be launching prosecution”, Venugopal was quoted as saying by LiveLaw.

According to a Bar & Bench’s reporting, the attorney general noted that action may be taken against two newspapers, which published documents regarding the Rafale negotiations and its pricing, and that action was also warranted against the senior counsel.

In response to this, CJI Gogoi noted that the first publication of the Rafale file notings was done on February 8.

“What have you done till now. You say the papers were stolen, what have you done?,” the CJI asked. To which the attorney general responded that he will find out.

How important is a document’s source?

After breaking for lunch, the back-and-forth between Venugopal and the bench continued, centring around the admissibility of documents that had been obtained through illegal means.

In a hypothetical example, CJI Gogoi highlighted that if an accused stole a document to prove his innocence, it should be admitted in court.

“An accused is having difficulty in proving his innocence. He steals a document and shows it to judge. The document clearly shows he is innocent. Should the judge not admit the document,” the chief justice asked.

The attorney general, however, replied that once the document is a “subject matter of criminality”, the court should “not look into it”. .

Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as the hearing continues in the Supreme Court.

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