Rafale fighter jets (File Photo)
Making a U-turn on his previous claim that the Rafale documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry, Attorney General K K Venugopal on Friday claimed that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that petitioners in the application used "photocopies of the original" papers, deemed secret by the government.
Going into damage-control mode, the Vengopal said: "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."
On Wednesday, the government's top legal officer had said that “certain documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry either by public servants and an investigation is pending. We are dealing with defence purchases which involve security of the state. It is a very sensitive case.”
Venugopal's comments in the top court caused a political row, with Congress chief Rahul Gandhi targeting the government over stealing of such sensitive papers and seeking a criminal investigation.
Clarifying on his previous statement, Venugopal said the application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushant, seeking from the court a review of its verdict dismissing pleas for a probe into against the Rafale deal, had annexed three documents which were photocopies of the original.
Official sources said the AG's use of word stolen was probably "stronger" and could have been avoided.
The government had also warned The Hindu newspapers with a case under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these documents.
Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan, have claimed in their review plea that the top court had relied upon "patently incorrect" claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover in the court.
They have claimed that the judgement was based on "errors apparent on the face of the record" and non-consideration of subsequent information which has come to light would cause a grave miscarriage of justice.