Certain documents pertaining to the Rafale fighter jets deal were stolen from the Defence Ministry and a probe has been initiated into the matter, the Government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Attorney General (AG), KK Venugopal made the submission during the hearing on review petitions filed by various parties against its December 14, 2018, judgment in which it had refused to order a probe into the deal to procure 36 Rafale fighter planes from France.
“We are dealing with defence purchases which involve the security of the state. It is a very sensitive case,” he told the apex court adding that the Centre is considering the invoking the Official Secrets Act on this issue.
The Supreme Court last month allowed for an open court hearing of the Rafale review petitions.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan told the SC that we have also made a supplementary affidavit based on reports by The Hindu’s Narasimman Ram. CJI Ranjan Gogoi said, “We don’t want any supplementary stuff. We have read what all you have given us.”
Venugopal in his submission said note files were stolen and one of the national dailies, had published it. “We are dealing with defence purchases which involves security of the state. It is very sensitive case,” he said.
“Due to this other countries may be hesitant in doing deals as they feel they will have to pass through all media attention, public domain and court proceedings,” the Attorney General said.
On January 2, petitioners in Rafale fighter jet deal case — Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, both former Union Ministers, and Prashant Bhushan, a noted lawyer — had moved the apex court for review of its Rafale judgment of December 14.
They had asked for recalling of the judgement and had also sought an oral hearing in the open court for their review plea.
Their petition states that the December 14 verdict contained several errors and also it relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the Government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover to the court, which is a violation of the principle of natural justice.
They also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signed an agreement for 36 Rafale jets on April 10, 2015, without any such requirement of 36 jets being given by the Air Force Headquarters and without the approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which are the mandated first steps for any defence procurement.
Earlier, on December 14 last year, the apex court had dismissed all petitions seeking court-monitored probe into Rafale fighter jet deal with France, saying that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the deal.
The top court had also said that it was not its job to go into the issue of pricing of fighter planes.