NEW DELHI, Mar 6: The government Wednesday told the Supreme Court that documents related to the Rafale fighter jet deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and threatened The Hindu newspaper with the Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on them.
Those who put documents on the Rafale deal in the public domain are guilty under the Act as also contempt of court, Attorney General K K Venugopal said before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
While publishing articles based on stolen documents amounts to violation of the Official Secrets Act, entailing maximum punishment of up to 14 years, the contempt law attracts six months jail as also a fine of Rs 2,000.
Unruffled by the Centre’s stand, Hindu publishing group Chairman N Ram said nobody would get any information from the newspaper on the confidential sources who provided the documents.
Ram said those documents were published in public interest as the details of the Rafale deal were withheld or covered up.
The bench, also including Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph, was hearing a batch of petitions seeking a review of its December 14 verdict dismissing all the pleas against the deal procured by India from France.
Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition, alleged that the Centre suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs.
When Bhushan referred to an articles written by Ram, Venugopal said the write-ups were based on stolen documents.
An FIR has not been registered so far into the theft of documents, he said.
The Bench, which will hear the review petitions further on March 14, was told by Venugopal that every statement of the apex court made in the Rafale case may be used to destabilise either the government or the opposition and therefore court should refrain from making it. PTI