Affidavit does not make a direct mention of any media outlets like “The Hindu” or the publication of Rafale documents by them.
The “photocopying” of sensitive documents on the war capacity of the Rafale combat aircraft and their leakage is a “conspiracy” affecting national security, the government claimed in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The photocopying was done without the “permission, consent, acquiescence” of the government. It thus amounts to theft, an offence under the Indian Penal Code.
Investigative reports by N. Ram on the Rafale deal
“Those who have conspired in this leakage are guilty of penal offences under the Indian Penal Code, including theft by unauthorised photocopying and leakage of sensitive official documents affecting national security,” an eight-page affidavit filed by the Ministry of Defence, represented by advocate R. Balasubramaniam, declared in the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
It rued that the sensitive documents, by being “widely circulated”, have reached the hands of the enemies. “National security is in jeopardy,” the government declared.
The affidavit, signed by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra, informed that an internal enquiry has been under way since February 28, 2019. “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,” the Ministry said.
The affidavit does not directly mention anything against media outlets, like The Hindu, which published the Rafale documents. Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, for the government, had said the documents published by The Hindu on the purchase of 36 Rafale jets were “stolen” from the Ministry of Defence, probably by former employees.
He had submitted in court on March 6 that the government was contemplating “criminal action” under the Official Secrets Act of 1923.
The court had asked the government to file an affidavit if the latter thought fit. The case, which is a review against the December 14 judgment of the apex court upholding the Rafale purchase, is scheduled for hearing on March 14.
‘Sovereignty at risk’
The affidavit, filed on Wednesday evening, said the petitioners, by annexing these “unauthorised” photocopies in their review petition, have managed to adversely affect the “sovereignty, security and friendly relations with the foreign countries”.
The affidavit explained that the entire “conspiracy” ranged from making “unauthorised photocopies of the sensitive documents” to “annexing them in the review petition filed in the Supreme Court”.