The Centre today urged the Supreme Court to direct removal of the leaked “secret” documents relating to Rafale deal from the record of the review petition and the miscellaneous application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan.
In an affidavit sworn by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, the Centre said, “these documents belong to a class in respect of which privilege is hereby claimed under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence, 1872, but since the petitioners have unauthorisedly and illegally produced the same already and disclosed their contents along with the Review Petition and Misc. Application filed by them and that all details are already in the public domain, it has become imperative for the Union of India to seek removal of these documents from the record of the Review Petition and Misc. Application filed by the petitioners…”
The Centre further said that the four-page note marked as Secret and authenticated by Bhushan and the other set of 8 pages which also have been authenticated by Bhushan puts national security in jeopardy.
The said documents form part of the review petition moved by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan seeking review of the December 14, 2018 order of the Supreme Court dismissing the petition seeking probe into Rafale deal.
Claiming privilege under Section 123, 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, the Centre said the petitioners have no authority whatsoever to produce the same before this Hon’ble Court without the explicit permission of the Government of India, Ministry of Defence. In fact, the said documents produced by the petitioners unauthorisedly are also exempt from disclosure under Section 8 (1) (a) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The Centre further said, “Even though the Central Government maintains secrecy, the petitioners and the deponent of the affidavit of the Review Petition are guilty of leakage of sensitive information, which offends the terms of the agreements. Additionally, those who have conspired in this leakage are guilty of penal offences under the Indian Penal Code including theft by unauthorized photocopying and leakage of sensitive official documents affecting National Security. These matters are now a subject of an internal enquiry which has commenced on 28.02.2019, and it is currently in progress. In particular, it is of utmost concern to the Central Government to find out where the leakage took place so that in future the sanctity of decision making process in governance is maintained”.
Besides, the government stressed that, “those who have conspired in making the photocopy of these sensitive documents and annexing it to the Review Petition/ Misc. Application and thereby committing theft by unauthorized photocopying of such documents have adversely affected the Sovereignty, Security and Friendly Relations with the foreign countries.”
“…secrecy was envisaged in the various agreements that the Central Government had entered into with the concerned Foreign Government and others concerning matters of National Security. Even though the Central Government maintains secrecy, the petitioners and the deponent of the affidavit of the Review Petition are guilty of leakage of sensitive information, which offends the terms of the agreements”.
The Affidavit further states that the “petitioners are using unauthorisedly accessed documents with the intention to present a selective and incomplete picture of internal secret deliberations on a matter relating to National Security and Defence. The documents presented by the petitioners are failing to bring out how the issues were addressed and resolved and necessary approvals of the competent authorities taken.
“The selective and incomplete presentation of the facts and records by the petitioners are intended to mislead this Hon’ble Court into deriving wrong conclusions which is very damaging to National Security and public interest”.