Rafale review: Details redacted as we were bound to keep secret, AG tells SC
New Delhi, Mar 14: The Supreme Court was told that the Rafale agreement was government to government and hence the details had to be kept a secret. We were forced to the tell the CAG to redact some details, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the court.
The court has reserved orders on the preliminary objections and claims of privilege of the leaked documents.
The court is hearing a review of its December verdict, which had given the Rafale deal a clean chit. In December the SC had said that there was no reason to doubt the purchase process or the need for the fighter jets.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan told the court that the reason for seeking privilege is Mala-fide. The documents are already in the public domain. The CAG report filed by the government in the court has details of 10 kinds of defence purchases. Only the details relating to Rafale are redacted, he also said.
The Bench sought to know how the government decided on privilege protection. Is there a high level inter-department call taken on this. Can't the court even examine the documents to decide your claim of privilege, the Bench also asked.
The AG said that the details were kept a secret on the solemn undertaking that was given to France.
The court sought to know if this was stated in the affidavit. The AG said that the government had not stated the same in the affidavit, but added that they had claimed privilege. You see the same Rafale would be asked by other countries and France may to want them to know our price, the AG also said.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Defence had said in an affidavit that the petitioners were
guilty of leakage of sensitive information in the Rafale case.
The envisaged in the various agreements Central Government had entered into with the concerned Foreign Government and others concerning are matters of National Security, the Centre also said.
The documents attached in the review relates to the war capacity of the aircraft. Since Review Petition has been widely circulated and is available in public domain, the same is available to the enemy/our adversaries. This puts National Security in jeopardy, the affidavit also said.
The photocopies of the documents was done without consent. Hence it amounts to theft and this has affected the security, sovereignty and friendly relations with foreign countries, the affidavit also said.
It may be recalled that Attorney General K K Venugopal had said at an open court hearing that the "documents relied on by the petitioners in their review petitions were stolen from the ministry and should not be relied on".
"It's a criminal act on the part of petitioners to bring these documents with them. They have come with unclean hands," Venugopal had said. "Defence is the most important matter of state and national security. They have been illegally obtained and the source is not disclosed by the petitioners. It's a privileged document. These documents have made the cost of weapons public and has been taken from notes and has been put in the petition."
He however later clarified that the the documents were not stolen, but photocopied.