RAFALE: The Hindu in the dock as government says classifed Rafale documents photocopied and published by left-leaning daily

NEW DELHI: In what could spell trouble for The Hindu newspaper, the Union Government has told the Supreme Court that those seeking a review of the court verdict in the Rafale fighter jet deal with France brought classified documents into public domain by way of publishing  them and holding them aloft as proof. This put national security at risk, the apex court was told by the government on Wednesday. The earlier court verdict had backed the government stand on Rafale.

The government told the court that unauthorised photocopying of classified documents involved an act of theft. The photocopied materials were used by The Hindu in support of its investigative stories on the purchase of 36 Rafale jets by India under the Modi government. One of these reports had said the Defence Ministry had objected to the PMO opening parallel negotiations with the French government for the Rafale jets. Later, another report said the deal became more expensive due to the refusal of the French government to provide bank guarantees for the deal. Ministry documents were cited as proof. 

How the daily got these leaked papers is currently under investigation. Moles in the defence ministry appear to have taken photocopies of related documents and handed them over to either some interested parties or, which is less likely, to The Hindu.

The government pleaded that the petitions be dismissed. Also, the government said, those who violated the Official Secrets Act should face punishment – meaning jail or hefty fine.

Some time ago, the government had told the court that classified Rafale documents were stolen from the defence ministry vaults. Responded The Hindu’s Editor N Ram: “We have not stolen anything. We got the material from confidential sources and we cannot disclose the source.”

The petitioners in the case were former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie as also PIL activist Prashant Bhushan besides AAP MP Sanjay Singh.

The Editors Guild was quick to rise in support of the highly influential Chennai-based newspaper with leftist leanings.  –IHN-NN

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