Rafale Controversy: Leak jeopardised national security

Rafale leak put secret files in public domain and accessible to enemy, says government affidavit; Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan blamed

New Delhi: Just a day before the Chief Justice headed Bench holds a second hearing on the review petition challenging its verdict in the Rafale deal, Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra on Wednesday accused former union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan of putting national security in jeopardy.

In a 6-page affidavit, he said the documents attached to the review petition relate to the war capacity of aircraft. “Since the review petition has been widely circulated and is available in public domain, the same is available to the enemy/our adversaries,” he said. The Defence Secretary cited an “internal enquiry” which is in progress since February 28 to find out where the leak took place, but did not mention as to why no FIR has been lodged.

But he said those plotting the leak were guilty of penal offences under the IPC , including theft by unauthorised photocopying of sensitive official documents affecting national security. Those who have photocopied the documents have “offended India’s agreement with a foreign country” as the agreement has a secrecy clause, the government said.

However, there was no word on any action, as was threatened by the Attorney General in the last hearing, against The Hindu which first published most of the leaked documents. The government is adamant that those who have photocopied the documents have “offended India’s agreement with a foreign country” as the agreement has a secrecy clause.

During the last hearing of the Rafale case, the government had admitted that classified documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry. After the admission drew opposition flak, the Attorney General clarified that the documents were not stolen but photocopied.

The Editors Guild has “unequivocally” condemned the government’s stance and said any attempt to invoke the Official Secrets Act against the media is as “reprehensible” as asking journalists to disclose their sources. N Ram, chairman of The Hindu, has said the documents were published in public interest and nobody would get any information on the sources who provided them. “We have not stolen anything.

We got it from confidential sources and we are committed to protecting these sources,” Ram has said. Union minister Arun Jaitley has contended that that the freedom of press cannot be above national security. The affidavit has also asserted that the petitioners are using the unauthorised accessed documents to present “a selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations” to mislead the court.

The Defence Secretary has also cited the Indian Evidence Act that does not permit the petitioners to produce the documents without explicit permission of the defence ministry, noting that these documents are also exempt from disclosure under the Right to Information Act, 2005.

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