SC to pass order on review of Rafale judgement

SC to pass order on review of Rafale judgement

The Supreme Court is to deliver on Wednesday its orders if new "leaked" documents containing defence minister's notings pertaining to the 2016 Rafale fighter jet deal can be relied upon to seek review of its December 14, 2018 judgement.

The top court had then dismissed the PILs for probe into the decision to purchase planes from France.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph would pronounce the judgement at 10.30 am on preliminary objections raised by the Union government on the admissibility of the fresh documents cited by former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan.

On March 14, the top court had reserved its judgement and said it would decide if the “privileged” documents obtained “illegally” could be looked into. 

Attorney General K K Venugopal had contended the official documents related to the deal pertaining to the buying process and note of the defence minister were "stolen" and "illegally photocopied". Those could not be relied upon as those were also confidential and prohibited under the Official Secrets Act and were not available under the RTI Act. 

He said the matters related to the armament, war preparedness, and security of the nation were issues exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act. The security of the state is an exception, he said, adding there could reasonable restrictions on freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution, he had said.

Bhushan, for his part, said the documents were already in public domain in public interest. There were a lot of Supreme Court judgments which hold that public interest trumped over privilege, he said.

The court had reserved its judgement "on the preliminary objections and the claim of privilege raised by the Union Government".

In an affidavit filed on March 13, the government said the leak was a “conspiracy” to jeopardise national security and friendly relations with France, the home of Rafale’s manufacturer, Dassault Aviation.