Congress leader and former Union minister P Chidambaram “saluted common sense” on Saturday, after the Centre did a volte face regarding Rafale defence deal documents.
On Friday, a day after telling the Supreme Court that the files were stolen from the defence ministry, Attorney General KK Venugopal said petitioners seeking a review of the court’s verdict had used “photocopies of the original papers.” “I am told that the Opposition has alleged what was argued [in the Supreme Court] was that files had been stolen from the Defence Ministry,” he said Friday. “This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect.”
“On Wednesday, it was ‘stolen documents’,” tweeted Chidambaram on Saturday. “On Friday, it was ‘photo copied documents’. I suppose the thief returned the documents in between on Thursday.” He added: “On Wednesday, the Official Secrets Act was shown to the newspaper [The Hindu]. On Friday, the Olive Branches Act was shown. We salute common sense.”
Chidambaram also criticised the government on the unemployment situation again, referring to a Confederation of Indian Industry report on jobs creation. “Glad that CII has found its voice and has exposed the government’s bogus claims on job creation,” he said, adding that the top three matters in the upcoming General Election will be “jobs, jobs and jobs”.
His comments come after a report on January 31 said the National Sample Survey Office’s Periodic Labour Force Survey recorded the unemployment rate in India at a 45-year-high of 6.1% in 2017-’18. This was the first full financial year after the government demonetised high-value currency notes in November 2016.
Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram are currently embroiled in multiple corruption cases. A Delhi court on Friday extended the interim protection granted to Chidambaram and his son in connection with the Aircel-Maxis case until March 25.
The Rafale files
KK Venugopal had on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the documents used by The Hindu for its recent stories on the Rafale deal – and which the petitioners seeking an investigation have cited – were stolen from the defence ministry. Since the newspaper possibly violated the Official Secrets Act by using these documents for its stories, the attorney general had added, the court should not rely on these documents.
The government had also informed the court that an investigation is under way into the stolen documents.
Venugopal’s statement had led to a political row, with several Opposition leaders demanding a probe into the missing files.
On Friday, the government backtracked.