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Two days after telling the Supreme Court that Defence Ministry notes published in The Hindu newspaper were stolen from Defence Ministry, Attorney General KK Venugopal has now said that statement attributed to him is “wholly incorrect”.
He has also blamed the opposition for alleging that such an argument was made by him in Supreme Court.
Speaking to the news agency Press Trust of India (PTI) on Friday, Venugopal reportedly said,
“I am told that the Opposition has alleged what was argued (in Supreme Court) was that files had been stolen from the Defence Ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect.”
Attempting to clarify, the Attorney General said that the documents used by the petitioners in the case, as well as media houses The Hindu and ANI, were, in fact, photocopies of confidential government documents. This clarification was further backed by the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her tweet on Friday,
Arguing for the Central government on March 6, KK Venugopal on Wednesday had told the Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph that the reports published in the media were based on stolen documents and an investigation under the Official Secrets Act was underway.
Terming it as an act of “theft”, Venugopal had also argued that publishing news articles were being published just ahead of the Court hearing in an attempt to influence the proceedings of the Court. The same amounted to contempt of court, he had stated. The review petition and the perjury application ought to be dismissed in limine on this ground alone, Venugopal had contended.
The admissibility of such “stolen” documents was intensely debated during the proceedings when the Bench quizzed Venugopal on whether procurement of a document in an illegal manner makes it inadmissible. Venugopal responded by saying that the source of such a document should be disclosed.
“He has to disclose the source of the document. The submission is, once the document is a subject matter of criminality, in my opinion, the court should not look into it.”
Venugopal’s attack on the media over Rafale documents and the threat of action against the publications was condemned by the Editor’s Guild of India in a statement which said that the threats of action under Official Secrets Act were “reprehensible”.
The hearing in the Rafale case will resume in the Supreme Court on March 14 at 3 pm.