The Rafale Controversy doesn’t seem to die.
The ‘Rafale Deal’ is simply a deal as per which India was to purchase 36 Rafale jets from France for the Indian Air-force. The deal and its every clause and sub-clause is in limelight since the past year.
Last time you heard of it was in December, when the Supreme Court (SC) had dismissed corruption allegations on the ruling regime with regard to the terms of the deal.
After the last verdict, a review petition was filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie as well as activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan as they were not satisfied with the last judgement, for it was allegedly based on reports made under the ruling regime, and therefore distorted the judgment.
The Attorney General’s Stand:
When the plea was heard by the SC this Wednesday, the Attorney General (AG) of India, K. K.Venugopal said that the Supreme Court that the petitioners should not produce the documents as they were ‘stolen’ from the Defense Ministry; and for the same reason the judges should not even look into those documents.
The rationale behind it was that these were ‘secret’ documents and contained ‘sensitive’ information as it was related to defence and security of India.
To this the petitioners said that the AG was trying to intimidate the court, thus committing a criminal contempt.
Allegations on The Hindu :
He also said that since the critically acclaimed daily, The Hindu was already publishing reports based on these stolen documents, the Government of India was even thinking of taking criminal action against The Hindu under the Official Secrets Act (OSA).
OSA is a colonial era law that makes spying and sharing ‘secret’ information, amongst other things a punishable offence. It is a framework that deals with sedition, and other potential threats to the integrity of the nation.
The AG of India also accused The Hindu of trying to influence the Supreme Court’s verdict by deliberately publishing articles, right before the hearing; and called this a contempt of court.
The Hindu has said that all this was done in public interest. It also said that under no conditions would it reveal its sources.
The Supreme Court put forth some very sensible arguments-
- If the documents were stolen, why has the government still not taken any action? The Hindu has been publishing snippets of these documents since the past month e.g. Modi’s decision to buy 36 Rafales shot the price of each jet up by 41% ;and yet no FIR has been filed.
- Can the government seek shelter under the aegis of national security if the country is broken through a corrupt practice?
- Even if the evidence was stolen, the SC can look into it, if it was found relevant.
What has happened today?
In an interesting turn of events, the AG has said that the documents were not stolen but were ‘photocopies of the original’. He also said that he shouldn’t have used a word as strong as ‘stolen’.
But all this has stirred some important debates:
How thin is the line between honest journalism and keeping the national security.
Why does a draconian law like the Official Secrets Act still find place in Indian democracy? (It was made by the British during the Indian National Movement for independence to suppress dissenting nationalist voices)
How thinly guarded can a ministry as important as the defense ministry be to leak ‘secret, sensitive’ documents pertaining to the national security?
The next hearing will be on 14th March.
Image Credits: Google Images
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