Rafale files are not gayab, says Attorney General KK Venugopal now

New Delhi: A day after claiming in the Supreme Court that ‘secret’ Attorney General KK Venugopaldocuments on the Rafale fighter deal had been stolen from the defence ministry, Attorney General KK Venugopal has taken an abrupt U-turn. The government’s top legal officer is now making a curious claim that the papers were not stolen from the ministry.

Rather, what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that the petitioners had used “photocopies of the original papers”, which are deemed as ‘secret’ by the government.

The A-G’s initial comments in the apex court that the documents had been ‘stolen’ had caused a political upheaval, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi lampoon-ing the government over the loss of such sensitive papers and seeking a criminal investigation. “Gayab ho gaya (it is gone) will be the government’s new tagline,” Gandhi had jeered. “The opposition has alleged it was argued in the court that files had been stolen from the Defence Ministry. This is wholly incorrect.

The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect,” he told PTI, in an apparent damage-control exercise.During the open hearing on Wednesday, Venugopal told the Apex Court that the “documents relied on by the petitioners in their review petitions were stolen from the ministry and should not be relied upon”.

“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. Official sources said the AG’s use of word ‘stolen’ was probably “strong” and could have been avoided.

The government had also warned The Hindu newspaper with prosecution under the Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these ‘stolen’ documents. Those who put documents on the Rafale deal in the public domain are guilty under the Official Secrets Act and contempt of court, the Attorney General had then said. He had also told the court that an investigation has been launched into the “theft”, but an FIR has not been registered.

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