SC Dismisses Govt.’s Objections Over Rafale Deal, Permits Use Of ‘Leaked’ Papers In Review Plea

The Supreme Court dismissed objections on Wednesday raised by the Centre against the documents on which it claimed ‘privilege’ cannot be relied upon to re-examine the verdict in the Rafale deal. 

The Centre had submitted that the privilege documents were procured by petitioners in an illegal way and used to support their review petitions against the December 14, 2018 judgement of the Apex court dismissing all pleas challenging procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. 

“We dismiss the preliminary objection raised by Union of India questioning the maintainability of the review petition,” a three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph said.

The CJI-led bench said it will fix a date for commencing detailed hearing on the review petitions which question not only the pricing of Rafale jets but appointment of Anil Ambani owned company as offset partner of Dasault.

The Centre had pleaded that the documents attached to the review petition of Prashant Bhushan, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha were unauthorisedly photocopied from defence files and that these would have inimical impact on national security and friendly relations with France. 

The top court will hear the review petition against its December 14, 2018 judgment when it gave clean chit to the NDA government in the purchase of 36 fully-loaded Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation under an Indo-French government agreement. 

On January 2, petitioners in Rafale fighter jet deal case — Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with lawyer Prashant Bhushan — had moved the apex court for review of its December 2018 judgment. In their petition, they have alleged massive irregularities and favourtisim in awarding the offset deal to a defence company owned by Anil Ambani. 

On March 14, the government filed a fresh affidavit in the apex court in the Rafale case, saying that “unauthorisedly-accessed” documents related to “internal secret deliberations” had been presented in a “selective” manner to mislead the court and amounted to damaging national security.

During the course of the hearing, attorney General KK Venugopoal told the top court that the documents cited by the petitioners were the stolen ones. The court had reserved its verdict on the preliminary objection of the government. 

The Attorney General had also added that the disclosure of the documents is exempted under the Right to Information Act as per Section 8(1) (a). “ 

He had, therefore, sought dismissal of the review petition on the same grounds.