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Petitioners guilty of leaking Rafale info, govt tells SC

March 14, 2019 06:57 AM

Petitioners guilty of leaking Rafale info, govt tells SC

New Delhi:

The defence secretary on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that petitioners — Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan — by annexing photocopies of secret defence documents with their review petition on Rafale deal are guilty of leaking sensitive information and jeopardising national security.

The defence ministry claimed privilege over the documents and told the court that “since the petitioners have unauthorisedly and illegally produced the same already and disclosed their contents by putting it in public domain, it has become imperative for the Union government to seek removal of these documents from the records of the review petition”. It sought dismissal of the review petitions.

The secretary accused the three petitioners of using unauthorisedly accessed documents with the intention of presenting a selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations on a matter relating to national security and defence. He said attaching unauthorised photocopies amounted to theft.

The documents included an alleged “dissent note” by some members of the negotiating team for the Rafale fighter jet acquisition. The government has said the note is only part of a deliberative process and its members signed off on the final submission to the cabinet committee on security.

“The documents attached by the petitioners are sensitive to national security which relates to war capacity of combat aircraft. Since the review petition has been widely circulated and is available in the public domain, the same is available to the enemy/our adversaries,” said defence secretary Sanjay Mitra in his affidavit filed before the SC, a day ahead of hearing on the review petitions.

“This puts national security in jeopardy. Without consent or acquiescence of the central government, those who have conspired in making photocopy of these sensitive documents and annexing it to the review petition/ miscellaneous application and thereby committing theft by unauthorised photocopying of such documents, have adversely affected the sovereignty, security (of the country) and (its) friendly relations with foreign countries,” the secretary said.

The affidavit was necessitated after attorney general K K Venugopal told the SC on March 6 the documents annexed to the petition were ‘stolen’ from the defence ministry. He later clarified that he had meant that these were akin to theft of sensitive documents

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