"I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks."
N Ram, The Hindu Publishing Group Chairman, said on Wednesday, March 6, that they cannot be forced by anyone to reveal the confidential sources from whom they got the Rafale documents. They further clarified that they are all protected and that did not steal anything. Mentioning the Rafale deal, he said that it was a done deal.
“We are fully protected by Article 19(1) A of the Constitution, the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression and also by the Right to Information Act, specifically 8(1)(i) and 8(2), which override the Official Secrets Act,” he said, as reported by The Hindu.
He said that the first Rafale aircraft is coming in September, and the need to buy the jets or their quality are not being questioned by anyone. A series of articles have been written by N Ram on the Rafale deal, and he wrote the latest one on Wednesday, reported India Today.
Questions, however, will have to be raised on the decision making involved and the deal’s terms. “Is the new deal better than the old deal, whether there was any dissent or undermining on India’s negotiating position,” N Ram asked. He added that investigative journalism is what brought the Rafale deal to the fore, and that due diligence has been exercised by The Hindu in the investigation. What the government had withheld from the public, they published in public interest.
On February 8, N Ram had written in The Hindu that strong objections were raised by the Defence ministry to ‘parallel discussions’ that the Prime Minister’s Office conducted during the negotiations over the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal between France and India. Allegedly, it was based on Rafale deal-related documents.
The Supreme Court was told by the government that the documents related to the deal were stolen from the Defence Ministry, and that the theft is being investigated.
According to Attorney General KK Venugopal, the documents that had information on the pricing of the Rafales, which is topic of political debate, were stolen and provided to The Hindu to be published in their newspaper.
N Ram said that the Official Secrets Act, 1923 must be done away with, mentioning that “the OSA is an obnoxious piece of colonial legislation, which is anti-democratic and has rarely been used against publications in independent India.”
He further said that apart from The Hindu, much other independent news publication have come up with Rafale material. “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.
The documents related to the Rafale deal have been stolen from the Ministry of Defence, presumably by a public servant, said Attorney General of India KK Venugopal today to Supreme Court. Attorney General Venugopal said that the important documents regarding the pricing of the deal were stolen from ministry files and given to The Hindu newspaper for publishing. Currently, the Supreme Court is hearing a review petition on clean chit given by the court to the central government on Rafale deal.
N Ram, Chairman of The Hindu Publishing group earlier broke news about the serious inconsistencies in the Rafale deal through a series of articles.
Representing the central government, Attorney General Venugopal told the apex court, “These documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry either by former or present employees. These are secret documents and can’t be in the public domain.”
To this, the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi asked what action was being taken in this regard. AG said that investigations are underway as to know how documents were stolen. As reported by NDTV, he further accused The Hindu of relying on these “stolen” classified documents for publishing the newsbreak. “It is a criminal offence. We are objecting preliminary because secret documents can’t be annexed with the petition. Review and perjury petitions must be dismissed,” he added. AG said the petitioners including Prashant Bhushan were violating the Official Secrets Act by relying on classified documents.
The Hindu published several article reporting several inconsistencies in the Rafale Deal. These reports were said to be based on several governmental documents. The first report said that the Prime Minister’s Office held parallel negotiation with the French side, another report, again by the daily said that the PM Modi-led government waived critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties. The report also said that the central government overruled the recommendations of making payments through an escrow account (an important safeguard in the absence of a sovereign or bank guarantee) days before the deal was signed.
PM Modi government’s Rafale deal for 36 flyway aircraft was not better than the previous government’s 126 aircraft deal, said the three senior Defence Ministry officials who were the domain experts on the seven-member Indian Negotiating Team (INT). This was unveiled in another report by The Hindu as part of their series on the Rafale Deal.
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