Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram recalled a historic judgement in the United States to press the government for the release of documents related to the Dassault Rafale deal.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Chidambaram said that his party completely supports the publication of the documents while presenting a counter to Attorney General KK Venugopal’s accusation that papers related to the deal were “stolen”.
“We fully support the publication of documents pertaining to the Rafale deal. The argument that they are ‘stolen papers’ flies in the face of Article 19 of the Constitution,” tweeted Chidambaram, referring to the Constitutional law which guaranteeing freedom of speech.
“The celebrated judgement of the US Supreme Court in 1971 in the case of the Pentagon Papers is a complete answer to the AG’s arguments that the media cannot publish so-called secret papers,” he added.
The celebrated judgement of the US Supreme Court in 1971 in the case of the Pentagon Papers is a complete answer to the AG’s arguments that the media cannot publish so-called secret papers.
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) March 7, 2019
The Pentagon Papers case is from 30 June 1971 when the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the Richard Nixon administration’s effort to restrain newspapers The New York Times and The Washington Post from publishing a top-secret history of the Vietnam War called the Pentagon Papers.
A 2017 Academy Award nominated film, The Post, tells the story of the journalists who tried to publish the papers and the subsequent developments.
As the hearing on Rafale began in the Supreme Court on petitions seeking review of its December 14 verdict, Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, said that documents related to the deal “were stolen from the Defence Ministry”.
Calling it a “very sensitive case”, the AG told a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that “those who put documents on Rafale deal in public domain guilty under Official Secrets Act and contempt of court”.
Condemning the AG’s argument earlier today, the Editors Guild of India said that it “will intimidate the media in general and curb its freedom to report and comment on the Rafale deal in particular”.
“Any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is as reprehensible as asking the journalists to disclose their sources,” the Guild, which is headed by senior journalist Shekhar Gupta, said in the statement.