Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of making comments that verge on contempt of a court’s order on the review petition in the Rafale jet deal case. Sitharaman said that Gandhi had incorrectly claimed that the Supreme Court had said “chowkidar chor hai”.
The minister said the court has not made such a comment. “Gandhi has also claimed that the court has said that Narendra Modi gave [industrialist] Anil Ambani Rs 30,000 crores,” she told the reporters while refuting the comment. “The Congress president does not even read half a paragraph. By saying that the court has accepted and said ‘chowkidar chor hai’ his comments are on the verge on contempt of court.”
Sitharaman said Gandhi’s comments “attributing words that have not been uttered by the honourable court show his frustration”.
The Ministry of Defence has claimed that petitioners seeking an inquiry into the Rafale deal were using documents with the intent to present a “selective and incomplete picture”. The ministry reiterated that the documents were classified, and some of them “could not have been placed in public domain”.
The statement came hours after the Supreme Court agreed to hear review pleas challenging an earlier judgement dismissing a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the deal. The court dismissed the Centre’s objections to the petitions.
In March, the government had asked for the review pleas to be dismissed, claiming they were based on “secret files” accessed from the defence ministry.
In its statement on Wednesday, the ministry said that the documents cited by the petitioners “are failing to bring out how the issues were addressed and resolved and necessary approvals of the competent authorities taken”. “These are selective and incomplete presentation of the facts and records by the petitioners,” the statement read.
The documents were about “internal secret deliberations on a matter relating to national security and defence”, said the statement.
The ministry added: “The government had provided requisite information as desired by the Supreme Court and also provided all records and files as required by CAG [Comptroller and Auditor General]. The main concern of the government is relating to availability of sensitive and classified information concerning national security in the public domain.”
The review petitions had cited ministry documents revealed by media reports – mainly those published in The Hindu – in February. During the hearings, the government claimed that these were privileged and secret official files, and publishing them is illegal and a threat to security. The government said the disclosure of such details is exempted even by the Right to Information Act and breaches the Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act.
Petitioner Prashant Bhushan, however, told the court that it is settled law that a court should not be concerned about how a document is obtained if it happens to be relevant evidence.
The Congress and other Opposition parties have consistently alleged of corruption in the Rafale deal signed by Narendra Modi’s government. After the verdict, the Congress said the judgement was a victory for India.