New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that the freedom of press cannot be above national security and that the framers of the Constitution too realised this fact.
Jaitley’s comments came in response to a media query about the government telling the Supreme Court that the material published in The Hindu newspaper on Wednesday and earlier on February 8 about the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal was based on documents “stolen” from the Defence Ministry.
“Let me be very clear… What goes on in the court let’s leave it for the court to decide. It is obvious that defence notings of sensitive interests to this country have been leaked out,” the Minister said.
“Don’t forget that we have a very free press in India and we respect it. But even the framers of the Constitution have said that national security is an exception. And that has never been challenged in the last 72 years,” he added.
After the news report contradicting the Narendra Modi government’s claims on the Rafale deal was published in The Hindu, the government through Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it was in violation of the Official Secrets Act.
The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the leaked documents related to Rafale deal cited by those seeking a recall of the December 14 ruling giving a clean chit to the government on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets were confidential papers stolen from the Defence Ministry.
Referring to the eight-page dissent note by the three members of India Negotiating Team (INT), Venugopal told a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice K.M. Joseph that it was being probed if the documents were stolen by former or present employees.
N. Ram, who is author of the report and publisher of The Hindu, said that he and his publication were protected by the Article 19(1) of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of expression, besides being shielded by the Right to Information Act (RTI).