New Delhi: Attorney General KK Venugopal on Friday retracted from his earlier claim that the documents related to  Rafale fighter jets deal that have appeared in the media were stolen from the Defence Ministry. In an apparent damage-control exercise, the A-G said that in his submission before the Supreme Court on March 6 he meant that the petitioners in the application used ‘photocopies of the original’ papers, deemed secret by the government.

“I am told that the opposition has alleged what was argued (in SC) was that files had been stolen from the Defence Ministry. This is wholly incorrect. The statement that files have been stolen is wholly incorrect,” he was quoted as saying in a PTI report.

Appearing for the Centre, the Attorney General reportedly told a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph that the review petitions should be dismissed as they relied on stolen documents.

He further told the bench that it was being probed if they were stolen by former or present employees. “We are dealing with defence purchases which involve the security of the state. It is a very sensitive case,” he said.

His submission in the top court on Wednesday triggered a political row with Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying, “On one hand, you are saying the documents are missing, so this means the documents are genuine. It is clearly written in them that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was carrying out parallel negotiations.” He also added that while there should be action against those involved “in this missing documents case”, there should also be an inquiry on PMO making parallel negotiations.

There are two review petitions in the Rafale matter. While one is by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, the other is by AAP MP Sanjay Singh.

The Supreme Court had, in December last year, dismissed all petitions seeking a court-monitored investigation, saying it found “no occasion to really doubt the process” of decision making, pricing and selection of offset partners. However on February 26, it agreed to hear these petitions in an open court.