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Attorney General Now Claims Rafale Documents Not Stolen From Defence Ministry, Petitioners Used Photocopies

KK Venugopal's comments in the apex court on Wednesday that Rafale fighter jet deal documents were stolen caused a political row, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi targeting the government over stealing of such sensitive papers.


Updated:March 8, 2019, 7:52 PM IST
Attorney General Now Claims Rafale Documents Not Stolen From Defence Ministry, Petitioners Used Photocopies
File photo of Attorney General KK Venugopal. (Wikimedia Commons)

New Delhi: A day after claiming in the Supreme Court that the documents on the Rafale fighter jet deal had been stolen from the defence ministry, Attorney General KK Venugopal has gone back on his word.

The government’s top legal officer now claims that the papers were not stolen and what he meant to tell the apex court was that petitioners demanding a probe into the deal had used "photocopies of the original papers”, which have been deemed secret by the government.

"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.

At the open hearing on Wednesday, Venugopal told the SC that the “documents relied on by the petitioners in their review petitions were stolen from the ministry and should not be relied on”.

“It’s a criminal act on the part of petitioners to bring these documents with them. They have come with unclean hands,” Venugopal had said.

His comments in the apex court on Wednesday that files were stolen had caused a political storm, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi leading the opposition parties in targeting the government over theft of such sensitive papers. The parties had demanded an investigation.

But on Friday, the AG said the application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushant, seeking from the court a review of its verdict dismissing pleas for a probe into against the Rafale deal, had annexed three documents which were “photocopies of the original”.

Official sources said the AG's use of word stolen was probably "stronger" and could have been avoided.

Venugopal had on Wednesday told the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi-led bench that documents cited by The Hindu newspaper in its reports on the controversial Rafale deal were stolen from the defence ministry and cannot be shown in court as it would affect national security.

The government had also warned The Hindu with a case under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these documents.

Those who put documents on the Rafale deal in the public domain are guilty under the Official Secrets Act and contempt of court, the Attorney General had said. He had also told the court that an investigation has been launched into the “theft”, but an FIR has not been registered.

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