New Delhi: While refusing to reveal the source of the confidential documents on the Rafale deal that expose the alleged misdoings of the Narendra Modi government, veteran journalist and chairman of the Hindu group N Ram has rejected the accusation of stealing the documents from the ministry of defence.
Attorney general KK Venugopal, on Wednesday, argued in the Supreme Court that the Rafale deal documents were “stolen” and those publishing them were guilty under the Official Secrets Act.
In a response to the argument made by the Venugopal in the Supreme Court, N Ram, as quoted by the Hindu, said, “We did not steal the documents from the defence ministry. We got them from confidential sources and no force on earth can make me or us reveal the source of the documents, because we have given our word.”
“Secondly, we have published this information obtained through investigative journalism in the public interest, significant information that was withheld or suppressed despite repeated demands made in Parliament and outside. Thirdly, an unintended consequence of alleging that we have published ‘stolen documents’ has been authentication of the documents by the government itself; you need no further evidence that this is the real thing, the real deal,” he said.
While reacting on the mention of the Official Secrets Act, N Ram said the act is “anti-democratic and rarely used in independent India”. He said, “The information that has been accused of stolen from the defence ministry, should have gone into the public realm and freely available to readers.”
“Today it’s not just the Hindu, but also some other independent news publications which have put out material on Rafale, although, as in the Bofors investigation of the late 1980s, we have the leading role. There has been an overarching fear in the media ecosystem under this government, but the Indian press is now willing to do more. And the very fact that the issue has been covered in a big way shows that the blanket of silence that some would like to be imposed on this matter has been breached,” he said.
Earlier, Ram had reported that the Modi-government had intentionally waived provisions for anti-corruption penalties before signing the intergovernmental agreement and how the PMO conducted parallel negotiations with French government undermining the negotiating position of MoD and INT. He also exposed in his report in February that three senior officials from the defence ministry, who were also the domain experts on the INT of Rafale deal, had said the new Rafale deal of 36 jet aircrafts was not on “better terms” than the offer made by Dassault Aviation during Congress-led UPA government for 126 aircraft. Ram also reported that no bank guarantee from the French side also hiked the price of the Rafale jets.