A Memory Jogger: When Modi Govt Told SC That Rafale Files Had Been Stolen
AG KK Venugopal has made a U-turn and now claims that "it is wholly incorrect" to say that Rafale files had been stolen.
Attorney General K K Venugopal on Friday did a complete U-turn and claimed the Rafale documents were not stolen from the Defence Ministry and that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that petitioners in the application used “photocopies of the original” papers, deemed secret by the government.
His comments in the apex court on Wednesday that Rafale fighter jet deal documents were stolen caused a political row, with the Opposition and the media raising questions on the competency of the government over stealing of such sensitive papers.
“I am told that the opposition has alleged what was argued (in SC) was that files had been stolen from the Defence Ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect,” he told PTI, in an apparent damage-control exercise.
What Venugopal said in the Supreme Court on March 6
It has been highlighted that representing the Modi government, he said in the Supreme Court multiple times during the hearing on Wednesday that the files had been “stolen”. The government had also warned The Hindu newspapers with a case under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these documents.
Venugopal had said the application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan, seeking from the court a review of its verdict dismissing pleas for a probe into the Rafale deal, had annexed three documents which could not be admissible as evidence because they had been “stolen” from the defence ministry.
The hearing saw the bench asking the Attorney General, “Can relevant evidence be cut out saying it is illegally obtained? Can’t stolen evidence be looked into if it is relevant?
To this, Venugopal had said “They have come with a document which is stolen. Your Lordships might have your view on it (admissibility of ‘a stolen’ document) but I have a different view.”
Murali Krishnan, editor of Bar & Bench which reported the proceedings live, also shared in detail how many times the AG had made the assertion.
Venugopal had further argued that the petition itself was to be dismissed since it was based on “a criminal act”, i.e., stealing of defence ministry documents.
The entire petition is being based on a criminal act, this petition is liable to be dismissed. Defence is one of the most sensitive matters for the State involving the safety of each of us, AG KK Venugopal submitted. #Rafale #SupremeCourt
— Murali Krishnan (@legaljournalist) March 8, 2019
Venugopal had even accused the petitioners and the Opposition of “trying to destabilise the government”.
“In this limited area concerning defence of frontiers, would it not be appropriate for Your Lordships to exercise restraint? This is a matter by which opposition is trying to destabilise the government,”
(With PTI inputs)