Documents related to the Rafale deal were stolen from the Defence Ministry, the government has said in the Supreme Court. The government has also stressed that the review petitions on the Supreme Court's Rafale verdict cannot refer to these stolen documents.
The statement was made by Attorney General KK Venugopal before the three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph during an open court hearing of a joint petition filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The plea claimed that the government had withheld crucial facts related to the procurement of 36 Rafale jets when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs against the deal last year in December. As Bhushan referred to a report about the deal by The Hindu, Venugopal objected that the write-up was based on stolen documents and used selective portion from them.
A report in Wednesday edition of The Hindu newspaper by Narasimman Rao claimed that the French supplier's refusal, with support from the French government, to provide bank guarantees made the Rafale deal negotiated by the NDA government costlier by 246.11 million euros, as compared to that during the UPA regime.
Venugopal argued that citing the stolen documents in court is not admissible on account of Official Secrets Act and the review petition by Shourie, Sinha and Bhushan relies on these documents. He told the Supreme Court that the documents were stolen by a present or former public servant, and an investigation is underway into the theft.
On a question from Chief Justice Gogoi as to whether the court should not look into the evidence or documents if there is relevance or corruption, Venugopal replied in negative on grounds that they deal with defence and secrets. Venugopal also said that the publishers should disclose the source of the Rafale deal documents referred to in The Hindu report.
The Chief Justice bench asked Venugopal seek instructions and to apprise them of the measures taken after the alleged theft of secret Rafale documents. The Attorney General tried to submit a letter by Ram to Bhushan regarding the Rafale deal, but the court declined the submission, saying that it will not look into any new documents.
Earlier, the Supreme Court had quashed all the petitions against the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation on December 14, 2018.
(Edited by Vivek Punj with agencies' input)