00:25 GMT04 August 2020
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    With elections in India now less than two months away, the Rafale fighter jet deal with a French FIRM has become a hot campaign issue as the opposition has been alleging corruption in the procurement of the aircraft.

    New Delhi (Sputnik): The Indian government has retracted its earlier statement on the Rafale deal contract which it claimed before the Supreme Court of India that the documents were stolen from the defence ministry.

    READ MORE: Indian Court Handed 'Secret' Docs on Rafale Deal, Says They're Stolen — Govt.

    KK Venugopal, country's top law officer, 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.

    "I am told the opposition has alleged that it was argued (in the Supreme Court) that the files had been stolen from the defence ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect," Venugopal told PTI, in an apparent damage-control exercise.

    Earlier on Wednesday, the government's lawyer requested the Supreme Court of India to dismiss a petition filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan, to review an earlier order passed on 14 December 2018 that granted clean chit to the Modi government and found no basis to order probe in the deal.

    "I have an objection! These documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry by some former employee and the investigation is ongoing. These documents are marked secret and were published by two newspapers…this is an offence under the official secrets act. We would be launching prosecution", the AG jumped to his feet as Mr. Bhushan sought to indicate the note as published in the Hindu.
    Official sources told PTI that the Venugopal's use of word stolen was probably "stronger" and could have been avoided.

    The court is currently hearing a number of private citizen petitions on the issue. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners in the case, has alleged that the government lied in court about the Rafale deal and should face perjury charges.

    READ MORE: Modi Lashes Out at Opposition After Rafale Jets Remark Amid Row With Pakistan

    The petitioners wanted a court-monitored probe into the procurement process, alleging that the government favoured Dassault Aviation over other contenders as the French firm was willing to accept an offset partner chosen by the Modi government.

    Indian opposition leaders have been alleging major corruption in the $8.7 billion deal for the purchase of 36 fighter jet for the Indian Air Force that was signed in 2016 in government-to-government negotiations.


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    court case, scam, classified documents, Rafale fighter jets, Supreme Court of India, Narendra Modi, India, France
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