Attorney General K K Venugopal Friday claimed the Rafale documents were not stolen from the defence ministry and that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that 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 said, in an apparent damage-control exercise.
Venugopal said the application filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushant, seeking from the court a review of its verdict dismissing pleas for a probe into against the Rafale deal, had annexed three documents which were photocopies of the original.
His comments in the apex court on Wednesday that Rafale fighter jet deal documents were stolen caused a political row, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi targeting the government over stealing of such sensitive papers and seeking a criminal investigation.
Official sources said the AG's use of word stolen was probably "stronger" and could have been avoided.
The government had also warned The Hindu newspapers with a case under Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on these documents.
However, his latest comment has created fresh sparred between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, with the opposition party dubbing it a "lie" and the ruling party slamming Rahul Gandhi for his attack on the government over the issue.
Reacting to the remarks, BJP chief Amit Shah launched a scathing attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi saying: "Lies and Rahul Gandhi are synonymous. In this chain, he had yesterday said that Rafale's documents have disappeared from the Defence Ministry, but today it has become clear that no documents had disappeared. Another lie of Rahul Gandhi is in front of the public."
"Sometimes he lies about the foundation stone laying of the Ordnance Factory in Amethi, sometimes he lies about loan waiver, sometimes he lies about the Congress's role in the Sikh riots, sometimes he lies about meeting the Chinese ambassador during the time of Doklam, and sometimes he lies about the price of fruit and vegetables," Shah said in a series of tweets.
He alleged that Rahul Gandhi "lies habitually" and currently has no credibility in Indian politics.
On the Rafale issue itself, Rahul Gandhi has spoken over a dozen lies, Shah claimed.
"On Rafale's price, French prime minister, meeting Manohar Parrikar... he has lied on everything. Moreover, he also lied in the temple of democracy --Parliament," the BJP chief alleged.
Reacting to Venugopal's remarks, Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the government whose Attorney General does not know the difference between theft of defence ministry files and photocopies, is claiming that the country is in safe hands.
"Art of serving hundred lies to hide one truth! Yesterday in Supreme Court -- Rafale files have been stolen. Today -- Photocopies of Rafale files have been stolen," he tweeted.
"Modi ji, What's the 'duplicity' for tomorrow? Now every impossible lie is possible," he said.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in a tweet, cited Venugopal's remarks that the Rafale documents were not stolen from the Defence Ministry and that what he meant in his submission before the Supreme Court was that petitioners in the application used "photocopies of the original" papers, deemed secret by the government.
Shah, in his tweets, also said: "Insult of Iron Man Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, who symbolizes unity and integrity of the country, is nothing new for the Congress. Rahul Gandhi called India-made Sardar Patel's 'Statue of Unity' as 'Made in China'."
Shah alleged that to grab the votes of farmers, Rahul made a "false promise" of debt waiver.
Gandhi had promised that if within ten days the farmers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are not given debt waiver, the CM would be changed, he claimed.
"So far, even loans of 10% farmers has not been waived and now he says say that debt relief is not the solution," Shah said.