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Rafale deal documents stolen from Defence Ministry: Government tells Supreme Court

Arguing his case, Bhushan referred to an article published in The Hindu newspaper but AG Venugopal opposed it, saying the article was based on stolen documents and a probe in this matter is already on.

Rafale deal documents stolen from Defence Ministry: Government tells Supreme Court
File photo

NEW DELHI: In a surprising turn of events, the Centre on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court (SC) that confidential documents related to Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry.

Attorney General K K Venugopal told the apex court that the petitioners seeking a review of verdict delivered by the SC dismissing all pleas against the purchase of Rafale are relying upon the stolen documents.

The open court hearing started on Wednesday before a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph. During the hearing, former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition, accused the Centre of hiding important facts when the batch of PILs against the Rafale deal was dismissed by the top court in December.

Arguing his case, Bhushan referred to an article published in The Hindu newspaper but AG Venugopal opposed it, saying the article was based on stolen documents and a probe in this matter is already on.

The AG added that the first article was published on February 8 and there is also a story in Wednesday's edition which was aimed at influencing the proceedings and that amounts to contempt of court.

While Venugopal tried his best to seek dismissal of the review petitions, the bench asked the AG to inform the SC what steps were taken by the Centre when the stories based on stolen material were published in a national daily.

Bhushan advanced his arguments on behalf of Sinha, Shourie and himself, and claimed that the Centre suppressed critical facts on Rafale when the petition for an FIR and investigation were filed, PTI reported. Bhushan argued that the plea for FIR and probe into Rafale deal would have been accepted if the Centre had not suppressed the facts.

However, Venugopal interjected and stressed that Bhushan was relying on documents that were stolen from the Defence Ministry. The Chief Justice then told the AG that hearing Bhushan's arguments did not mean that the top court was taking on record the documents put forward by him.

The AG also informed the SC that the fresh documents brought by the petitioners were marked secret and classified, and therefore, are in violation of Official Secrets Act. He urged the apex court to dismiss the review petitions and sought perjury application against the petitioners for relying on stolen documents. 

The SC bench then asked AG Venugopal to apprise the court about the whole development related to the stealing of the documents from Defence Ministry after lunch.

(with PTI inputs)