NEW DELHI: The Indian government told the country apex court that documents pertaining to the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France have been stolen from the defence ministry.
Attorney General of India KK Venugopal told the Indian Supreme Court that the documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry either by former or present employees.
The supreme court was hearing review petitions in the Rafale deal case. “These are secret documents and can’t be in the public domain,” Venugopal told the court, representing the central government.
When the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi questioned what action the government had taken, Venugopal accused The Hindu newspaper of relying on these classified documents and said, “We are investigating how these documents were stolen.”
“It is a criminal offence. We are objecting preliminary because secret documents can’t be annexed with the petition. Review and perjury petitions must be dismissed,” the Indian attorney general said.
Opposition parties are accusing Modi of taking kickback and corruption in the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion.
They said that Modi government overpaid for the planes to benefit his friends.
The opposition has questioned the government on the choice of billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as Dassault’s local partner instead of a state-run manufacturer with decades of experience.
Dassault initially won the contract to supply 126 jets to India in 2012, with 18 to be built in France and the rest in India in collaboration with the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
However, during a visit to France in 2015 Modi scrapped the deal, signed under the previous government led by the Congress party, and ordered instead 36.