New Delhi: The government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that documents related to Rafale aircraft deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and the petitioners seeking a review of its verdict dismissing all pleas against the purchase of the jets relied upon those documents.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph began the open court hearing during which former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition, alleged that the Centre suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs against the Rafale deal in December.
When Bhushan referred to an article written by senior journalist N Ram in The Hindu newspaper, Attorney General K K Venugopal opposed it, saying his write-ups were based on stolen documents and an investigation into the theft is on.
Venugopal said the first write up by the senior journalist appeared in The Hindu on February 8 and there is also a story in Wednesday’s edition which was aimed at influencing the proceedings and that amounts to contempt of court.
While Venugopal was seeking dismissal of the review petitions and raising objections to Bhushan’s arguments based on the write-ups published in The Hindu, the bench sought to know from the Centre what has it done when it is alleging that the stories are based on stolen material.
Advancing his arguments on behalf of Sinha, Shourie and himself, Bhushan said critical facts on Rafale were suppressed when the petition for an FIR and investigation were filed.
He said that the top court would not have dismissed the plea for FIR and probe into Rafale deal had there not been suppression of facts.
However, Venugopal said the documents relied upon by Bhushan were stolen from the Defence Ministry and an investigation into the matter was underway.
At this point, the chief justice said that hearing Bhushan did not mean that the top court was taking on record the documents on the Rafale deal.
He also asked Venugopal to tell after lunch what action has been taken on theft of documents on the aircraft deal.
The AG also submitted that the documents on the deal relied on by the petitioners were marked secret and classified, and therefore, are in violation of Official Secrets Act.
He sought dismissal of the review petitions and perjury application as they relied on stolen documents and said that today’s The Hindu report on Rafale amounts to influencing hearing in the apex court and is itself contempt of court.
The bench rose for the lunch break asking Venugopal to apprise it about the whole development related to the stealing of the documents and the investigation conducted by the Centre in the post-lunch session.
(With inputs from PTI)