Opposition parties on Wednesday slammed the government for the Attorney General’s (AG) submission in the Supreme Court claiming that the Rafale deal documents published in The Hindu were “stolen” from the Ministry of Defence and questioned the government’s capability to defend the country.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Twitter that the AG had merely confirmed the series of news stories questioning the Rafale deal. “Modi govt itself admits Rafale documents “stolen” from the Ministry of Defence. How can country’s security be entrusted with this govt? But thanks to them for confirming the documents. An FIR against Modi is now inescapable,” he tweeted.
CPI leader D. Raja told The Hindu that instead of shooting the messenger the government should respond to the message. “It is shameful that the Attorney General is telling the apex court that the files have been stolen. Is the chowkidaar not able to protect the files? Now they are attacking The Hindu . When its suits them they claim that no one should question the source. You are attacking the messenger what about the message. Why the PM is not able to respond to issues in public domain?,” he said.
Trinamool Congress MP Dinesh Trivedi demanded a formal police investigation into the AG’s claim about “stolen documents”.
“If this is what the government appointed Attorney General says, it means it is the official statement of the Ministry of Defence. If the Ministry can’t protect such sensitive documents concerning national security then how can they defend the country? It is a very serious affair and there should be thorough enquiry into it,” he said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha said the AG’s statement showed this “is the weakest government that can’t keep the country safe”. “This tells you very clearly why the PM and his team were blocking possibility of JPC. You can’t cover corruption under pretext of national security. Request the PM to submit to due process of law,” he said.
Senior advocate and constitutional expert Dushyant Dave said there was no violation of the Official Secrets Act (OSA) in the publication of documents related to the Rafale deal, as ministers, and the Prime Minister, besides the Air Force brass had repeatedly gone to the press with selective documents to justify their stand.
“The argument on behalf of the government is an absolute non-starter,” he said in response to a query on whether stolen documents can be relied upon by a court as an admissible proof, an issue which was at the centre of the Rafale case hearing in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
'Government is on the back foot'
“It is made only to deflect real debate on this most sensitive public issue. The government is on the back foot after having misled the Supreme Court as alleged in review petition by Shourie et al and is, therefore, trying to again lead the Supreme Court on a garden path.
“The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of rule of law and has duty to question every executive action, irrespective of so called national security argument. The government had a duty to satisfy the court and must be fair to the court. It is unfortunate the government is taking such a stand.
“They can’t now refuse to disclose full details. We are a democracy and governed by rule of law.”
2 senior advocates agree with oral observation of Bench
Former Additional Solicitor General and senior advocate Indira Jaising agreed with the oral observation made by the Bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi that even stolen evidence could be looked into, if it was found to be relevant. “The CJI gave the answer, as far as I have seen from tweets,” she said.
During the hearing, the CJI observed, “We can understand you saying that petitioners came with unclean hands. That they got the documents through doubtful sources. But it is another thing to say that the court cannot consider these documents at all. That they are untouchable”.
Senior advocate Rebecca John also concurred with the top court’s oral observation. “The answer is given by the Bench itself when the CJI asked how does it prevent the court from looking in the documents,” she said.