Now, Attorney General says Rafale documents weren't "stolen" but "copied"
Two days after he told the Supreme Court that classified documents related to Rafale Deal were "stolen" from Ministry of Defense, Attorney General KK Venugopal on Friday clarified that the papers were in fact "photocopied". Taking an obvious U-turn, Venugopal said, "Statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect." His comments in the apex court stirred a political slugfest, with Congress President Rahul Gandhi leading the attack.
Backstory: Rafale was discussed in SC, again
On Wednesday, an SC bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi and including Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph heard a petition seeking a review into an earlier verdict. The court had earlier dismissed petitions demanding a probe into the multi-crore Rafale deal, saying the process satisfied them. But former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, and lawyer Prashant Bhushan weren't pleased with the judgment.
The curious case of missing Rafale papers
The petitioners brought reports published in The Hindu, to the court's attention. The newspaper published documents to prove the deal which Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA struck with France, was more expensive than the one which UPA inked. However, Venugopal asked the court to dismiss the fresh plea saying classified documents were "stolen". He added an "investigation" into the matter has been initiated.
Venugopal does damage control after "stolen" statement
Though Venugopal didn't name media houses initially, he said later, "Documents in the possession of The Hindu and ANI are stolen documents." The government also threatened to take action against the two publications under the Official Secrets Act. But on Friday, rushing to contain the damage, Venugopal told PTI, the petitioners "had annexed three documents which were photocopies of the originals."
Statement about stolen files incorrect: Venugopal
"I am told that the Opposition has alleged what was argued (in SC) was that files had been stolen from the Defense Ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect," the Attorney General told PTI.
Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman endorses Venugopal's statements
2. The Learned AG told @PTI_News "I am told that the opposition has alleged what was argued (in SC) was that files had been stolen from the Defence Ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect.” #Rafale— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) March 8, 2019
Flaying with Centre, Rahul Gandhi demanded an investigation
After Venugopal made the peculiar admission in court, RaGa wasted no time in attacking PM Modi. Addressing press, he said this government specialized in "making things disappear". He even said statements of government's representative confirmed the papers were authentic. He added PM Modi ran parallel negotiations to help Anil Ambani and an investigation against him should be launched.
Separately, Mayawati said PM Modi should apologize to nation
Meanwhile, Chidambaram says thief may have "returned documents"
Unsurprisingly, the latest comments of Venugopal gave the Opposition a chance to slam Centre. Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram tweeted, "On Wednesday, it was 'stolen documents'. On Friday, it was 'photocopied documents'. I suppose the thief returned the documents in between on Thursday." In another tweet, he said after Official Secrets Act, "Olive Branch Act" was shown. "We salute common sense," Chidambaram tweeted.