In his first comments on the Scorpene data leak, Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said the Navy is taking it “very seriously” and that “mitigation measures” will be taken based on the report of a probe panel.
French company DCNS, which designed the Scorpene submarines and is in the centre of a global submarine data leak scandal, has, meanwhile, approached the Supreme Court in Australia seeking an injunction against ‘The Australian’ from further publishing the leaked documents on India’s Scorpene submarine project.
While the Indian government has maintained that the leak will not affect the submarine programme and the capability of the vessel, the opposition Congress party has accused the government of brushing the matter under the carpet.
On Monday, Admiral Lanba spoke on the issue publically for the first time and said: “Any leak of information is viewed very seriously. We have viewed the leak of the Scorpene data very seriously.”
“We have asked DCNS (French submarine maker) to launch an urgent investigation into this. We have ourselves set up a high level committee to investigate into this. Based on the report, we will see what mitigation measures need to be taken,” he said.
Asked how serious concern the leak was as the Indian Navy already has fewer submarines than its requirement, Lanba said: “This is not a matter of huge worry. The committee is analysing, it will be seen what data has been compromised and what mitigation measures will be taken.”
The Congress on the other hand demanded a probe into the leak by a sitting or retired Supreme Court judge.
“The government and its Defence Minister are trying to make us believe that the Scorpene leak is not very serious and that it did not compromise our national security. This is false,” Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
“Even the Navy chief has acknowledged that the leak of documents pertaining to submarines which are under trial is a serious issue,” he added.
Tewari wondered if the Defence Minister had gone through the 22,240 leaked papers before making a claim that it poses no security risk.
DCNS meanwhile approached the Australian Supreme Court seeking an injunction against ‘The Australian’ from further publishing the leaked documents on India’s Scorpene submarine project.
In response to an email from IANS, DCNS Head of Media Relations Emmanuel Gaudez said: “To be precise, DCNS is instructing a demand to The Australian in order to remove from its website the documents which it has published online and prevent the publishing of other documents.”
The company wants to prevent The Australian from releasing any more confidential data contained in 22,400 secret documents because it may cause harm to its customer — the Indian Navy.
The company is also seeking a court order to force The Australian to hand over the documents and remove them from its website.
“The publication of this highly valuable document causes a direct harm to DCNS and its customer in terms of spread of sensitive and restricted information, image and reputation,” says an affidavit by DCNS’ lawyer Justine Munsie.
The Australian has redacted the most sensitive details from the documents before their publication.
Meanwhile, the Indian Navy top officers have said that they do not expect the project to be delayed and that the first Scorpene vessel, INS Kalvari, which is currently undergoing sea trials, will be inducted by the year-end.
The Indian Navy has maintained the leaked data will not compromise the boat’s stealth capabilities, and an officer told IANS that, if needed, India is capable of making suitable changes in the submarines keeping in mind the “worst-case scenario”.