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Rafale papers used by petitioners sensitive to national security: Government tells Supreme Court

On February 6, the Centre had informed the SC that confidential documents related to Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry.

Rafale papers used by petitioners sensitive to national security: Government tells Supreme Court
A Rafale fighter aircraft rehearses for fly-past ahead of 12th edition of AERO India 2019 at Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru, Feb 15, 2019. (PTI Photo)

Ministry of Defence on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in Rafale case, saying the documents submitted by the petitioners in the Rafale review case are sensitive to national security as they are related to war capacity of French-made combat aircraft.

"Ministry of Defence in its affidavit before the Supreme Court says the documents attached by the petitioners in the Rafale review case are sensitive to national security which relates to war capacity of combat aircraft," news agency ANI reported.

The Defence Ministry added in its affidavit that those involved in the leakage of these papers are guilty of penal offences including theft by unauthorized photocopying and leakage of sensitive official documents affecting National Security. The affidavit also stated that an internal enquiry in this matter was started on February 28.

"Those who've conspired in this leakage are guilty of penal offences including theft by unauthorized photocopying&leakage of sensitive official documents affecting National Security. These matters are now subject of an internal enquiry which commenced on Feb 28," the Ministry of Defence said in its affidavit.

The Centre also told the top court that unauthorisedly accessed documents were used by the petitioners to present selective and incomplete picture of confidential deliberations on national security.

On February 6, the Centre had informed the SC that confidential documents related to Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry.

During the hearing, Attorney General K K Venugopal had 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.

But Attorney General Venugopal changed his stand after two days and claimed that the Rafale documents were not stolen from the Defence Ministry and what he meant in his submission before the apex court was that "photocopies of the original" papers were used by petitioners in their application.

The open court hearing in the case 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, claimed that important facts were suppressed by the Centre when the SC had dismissed a batch of PILs against the Rafale deal in December last year.