Leakage of Rafale deal papers has put national security in jeopardy: Centre

The central government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the leakage of pricing and other details of 36 Rafale fighter jets, bought from France, has put national security of the country in jeopardy. The documents, which are now widely available in public domain owing to the leak, has adversely affected the sovereignty and security of the country as well as hampered “friendly relations” with foreign countries, it said.

In an affidavit before the top court, the central government, through the Defence Ministry, has also said the leakage offended terms of the agreements with France.

“Additionally, those who have conspired in this leakage are guilty of penal offences under the Indian Penal Code including theft by unauthorised photocopying and leakage of sensitive official documents, affecting national security,” the government said in its affidavit.

On March 6, the central government, represented by Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal, had told the Supreme Court the documents, based on which details of alleged misdoings in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France were published by newspapers, were stolen from the Ministry of Defence either by current or former employees of the ministry. 

As these documents pertained to defence deals and were covered by the Official Secrets Act, the government was planning to take “criminal action” against the newspapers that published the stories and the petitioner who used it in his petition, A G Venugopal had told the court. Since the stories and petitions included top secret defence documents that were stolen, the top court should dismiss the review petitions, AG had then said.

In its affidavit on Wednesday, the Centre also told the Supreme Court that it was trying to find out “where the leakage took place so that in future the sanctity of decision making process in governance is maintained”. The documents used by the petitioner, the central government said, were accessed in an unauthorised manner “with the intention to present a selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations”, the Centre said.

A three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, is hearing a review petition on its December 14 judgment in which it had dismissed probe into the purchase of Rafale fighter jets. The review petition has been moved by former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, as well as Senior Advocate Prashant Bhushan, among others.

On December 14, the top court had dismissed all pleas seeking a court-monitored probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France. 

The top court had then said it had found “no occasion to doubt the (decision-making) process” and thus would not interfere.

In their review petition moved before the top court, Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan have alleged that the government had suppressed crucial facts related to the fighter aircraft deal and hence mislead the court. They had alleged that the court had relied on “patently incorrect” claims made by the Centre in the note it had submitted to the top court while it was hearing the original petition.

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