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Rafale papers could have been stolen by public servants, AG tells SC

PW Bureau

Papers concerning the pricing of the controversial Rafale were stolen from ministry files and handed to The Hindu newspaper for publishing, said Attorney General Venugopal New Delhi: The government informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the documents pertaining to the Rafale fighter aircraft deal have been stolen — perhaps by public servants — from the Ministry of Defence. Papers concerning the pricing of the controversial Rafale deal, which has been a topic of longstanding political debate, were stolen from ministry files and handed to The Hindu newspaper to publish, according to Attorney General KK Venugopal. A review petition and an affidavit filed by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan held extracts from the stolen documents, and these should be dismissed, Venugopal said. He also said that a review plea filed by Prashant Bhushan contained extracts from the stolen papers.

‘Criminal act’

Venugopal read out the Right to Information (RTI) Act and said that defence documents were outside of the purview of the Act. The attorney general also alleged that Bhushan and other petitioners had “unclean hands,” asking how they were able to access the paperwork. He added that the petition was based on a “criminal act.”  By relying on the classified document, Venugopal also told the apex court that the people were guilty of violating the Official Secrets Act. An investigation regarding the stolen documents is already underway, the government told the Supreme Court. It said an FIR hasn’t been registered.

The longstanding political debate

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration decided to order 36 French jets in a flyaway condition, abandoning an earlier deal for 126 Rafale planes, including its local production. The decision has drawn political ire from the Opposition Congress party.