‘Rafale documents not stolen’, India top lawyer clarifies after opposition criticism

Attorney general says what he meant was petitioners used 'photocopies of the original' papers deemed secret by govt

News Desk March 08, 2019
Attorney general's remarks in top court that Rafale jet deal documents were stolen created a massive political row. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

Two days after the Modi government’s claimed in the Supreme Court that Rafale documents were "stolen" from the defence ministry, its top lawyer has clarified in an apparent damage-control exercise.

According to Attorney General KK Venugopal, what he meant was petitioners used "photocopies of the original" papers deemed secret by the government, NDTV reported on Friday.

The government's initial claim created a massive political row with Congress President Rahul Gandhi attacking the Modi administration over the theft of such sensitive papers and seeking an investigation.

"Gayab ho gaya [it is gone] will be the government's new tagline," Gandhi had mocked on Thursday. BSP chief Mayawati, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and NCP's Sharad Pawar also had slammed the government.

The government on Wednesday alleged the theft of classified documents after petitioners asked for an inquiry into the Rafale case and a report by The Hindu highlighting that the deal signed by PM Modi was more expensive than the one contracted by the previous Congress-led UPA government because of France's refusal to grant bank guarantees.

"I am told that the opposition has alleged what was argued [in the 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," he told news agency Press Trust of India.

Venugopal added the application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushant had attached three documents which were photocopies of the original.

PTI quoted official sources as saying the Attorney General's use of word stolen was probably "stronger" and could have been avoided.

This story originally appeared on NDTV