Defence

‘Rafale documents cited by Prashant Bhushan were stolen from defence ministry’

SC commences hearing on pleas in Rafale case

Attorney General KK Venugopal on Wednesday said the Supreme Court, which is hearing review petitions in the Rafale deal case, that certain documents pertaining to the purchase of the fighter jets have been stolen from the defence ministry.

Venugopal complained to the arguments made by lawyer Prashant Bhushan when he started reading out from a note in the Supreme Court. Bhushan argued that the Supreme Court would not have dismissed the plea seeking probe into the Rafale deal case had “critical facts” were not suppressed by the government.

KK Venugopal informed the court that the documents relied upon by advocate Prashant Bhushan were stolen from defence ministry by “present or former employees”. Venugopal informed the apex court that an investigation has been ordered into the stolen papers.

The Narendra Modi government meant an agreement with France in 2016 for the purchase of Rafale fighter jets. Under the Rs 59,000-crore deal, a French firm, Dassault Aviation will supply 36 Rafale fighter jets to India in flyaway condition.

The attorney general argued that the letters published in a newspaper and annexed in the review petition are “privileged” and cannot be taken note of. He said the court is dealing with defence purchases that involve the security of the country.

“Recent incidents have shown how sensitive it is so far as defence purchases are concerned…Such scrutiny will affect future purchases. Countries would be hesitant before entering. They would say we would have to pass hurdles of parliament and TV channels and finally the court,” stated Venugopal against the review petitions in Rafale deal case.

He also described the court that prosecution would be launched against the two papers and the lawyer who has annexed it with the petition. Earlier, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi refused to accept any fresh affidavit by Prashant Bhushan asking him to confine his arguments to the documents already submitted in the court.

The Rafale deal ran into controversy after the opposition parties headed by the Congress alleged irregularities in the signing of the contract with the French company. Some people including Bhushan and former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie moved the Supreme Court last year seeking an independent probe into the Rafale deal.

The Supreme Court dismissed the pleas observing that due process was followed in signing the Rafale deal. The court also said that it did not find any “commercial favouritism” in the contract.

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