CBI inquiry into Rafale will threaten national security, tells AG in Supreme Court
AG KK Venugopal invoked national security, the official secrets act and stolen documents from the ministry of defence to plead against any intervention by the SC and a CBI inquiry into the Rafale deal
Attorney General KK Venugopal on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court of India to dismiss petitions seeking a CBI inquiry into the Rafale deal. Such an inquiry, he argued, would pose a grave threat to national security.
While the court adjourned the hearing till Thursday, March 14, Venugopal (88) put up a spirited but somewhat curious defence of the Rafale deal. By raising a preliminary objection and pointing out that documents published by The Hindu were stolen from the Ministry of Defence, he on the one hand authenticated the documents and on the other held out a veiled threat of the Government cracking down on petitioners and newspapers for compromising the security of the country.
For good measure, the Attorney General argued that the country needs the Rafale fighter planes (petitioners agree and have not prayed for the cancellation of the deal) to counter Pakistan’s apparently more formidable F-16 fighter jets.
It was an extraordinary defence even as Prashant Bhushan pointed out that his petitions in the 2G case as well as the case against the former CBI director Ranjit Sinha, were both based on documents supplied by whistleblowers. On both occasions the Supreme Court ordered an investigation.
Statements made by the AG before the Supreme Court on Wednesday were as follows:
- Rafale documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry. Investigation is underway & these stolen documents can't be relied upon by the court. It is an offence under the Official Secrets Act.
- "Documents were published by the newspaper (The Hindu) by omitting the word 'Secret' at the top. This is in violation of the Official Secrets Act.
- “Criminal action" should be taken against the two newspapers and even the counsel (Prashant Bhushan) for making public confidential documents containing file notings.
- Recent events have shown how sensitive the situation can get if defence issues are disclosed. Further, imagine the extent of delay if everything has to pass through the Parliament, TV channels and the newspapers and finally, the court! we have said that the prices cannot be disclosed at all. And today again something has been published in The Hindu. The usual practice is that before a sensitive hearing, a story is put out to influence the court. This in itself is contempt of the court
* FIR hasn't been registered so far into stealing of the documents since the FIR would have to also name the petitioners (Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan)
- Every statement by this Court is used to destabilise either the Govt or the opposition. Why should the court become a party to such an exercise? This is why I am appealing to this Court to exercise restraint. Defence procurements can't be judicially examined.
- Defence purchases involve the very security of the State. In future, foreign countries will think twice because they will think defence purchases will have to go through parliament, TV channels, newspapers and then the judiciary.
- This is the only country where a court is examining a defence deal as if it is an administrative issue. No other court in any other country will do it.
- The leaked documents can be looked into by the court only when the source is declared. Relevancy of the papers can't be the sole consideration. They must say whether retired or present officers did it (leaked it).
- Certain issues are outside the purview of judicial review. Do we have to come to the court to justify when we declare war, when we declare peace? Do we have to come and seek permission of the court every time?
- RTI will not apply to security of State and to acts affecting friendly relations with foreign States. MoD docs marked secret were placed in the public domain.