Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday alleged the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government was trying to silence the media through "unconstitutional means", condemning the Centre's threat of invoking action under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) against The Hindu newspaper in the Rafale case.
Mr Naidu tweeted:
After misguiding SC, misleading the nation, destroying all vital Institutions of the country, Modi govt's threat to file cases under Official Secrets Act against The Hindu & Mr. N. Ram is a serious threat to freedom of speech & expression guaranteed by the constitution of India.— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) 7 March 2019
The government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that documents related to the Rafale jet deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry, targeting The Hindu newspaper over its investigative stories on the purchase of 36 fighter jets from France amid opposition allegations of corruption.
The government also warned that those relying on "secret documents" - a reference to The Hindu and petitioners seeking an inquiry into the Rafale decision-making process - were violating the Official Secrets Act, for which the punishment is jail or fine.
During the hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal had also told the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the Rafale case involves defence procurement, which cannot be reviewed judicially.
"We have not stolen anything. We got it from confidential sources and we are committed to protecting these sources. Nobody is going to get any information from us on these sources. But the documents speak for themselves and the stories speak for themselves," N Ram, chairman of The Hindu Publishing Group, told NDTV.
"Whatever we have published has been published. They are authentic documents. And they have been published in the public interest because these details have been withheld or covered up... It is the duty of the press - through investigative journalism - to bring out relevant information or issues of great importance for the public interest," said the top editor.
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