From Bofors to Pakistani F-16s to National Security: How the Rafale Drama Unfolded in SC
During the hearing, the government told the Supreme Court that documents related to Rafale deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry and cannot be submitted in court.
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
New Delhi: In a tense hearing on Wednesday, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the government for citing national security to resist a probe into the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets from France. During the hearing, the government told the Supreme Court that documents related to Rafale deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph began the open court hearing during which former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan, who had jointly filed the petition, alleged that the Centre suppressed crucial facts when the apex court decided to dismiss the batch of PILs against the Rafale deal in December. The Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing in the politically sensitive case to March 14.
Here are the top highlights of Wednesday's hearing:
- Justice KM Joseph asked the government why stolen or unlawful documents cannot be looked into irrespective of how it helps the court. “There were allegations of corruption in Bofors. Now will you say the same thing that a criminal court shouldn't look into any such document?”
- Attorney General KK Venugopal expressed displeasure, questioning how the court could deal with a defence contract. “This is the only country where a court is examining a defence deal as if it is a matter of administrative law.”
- The government said a report in The Hindu on the Rafale deal was based on documents “stolen” from the defence ministry. The Attorney General further stated that since the use of documents is an illegal act, the petitions filed by Yashwant Sinha and Prashant Bhushan should be dismissed. The A-G alleged that the petitioners have “unclean hands”.
- Citing the ongoing tensions between India and Pakistan, the Attorney General underscored the importance of having Rafale jets in the Indian Air Force. "We need Rafale jet to defend our country from F-16 fighter planes that recently bombed us. Without Rafale, how can we resist them," the A-G said. "Rafale fighter jets are needed although MIG-21 of 1960s performed beautifully against F-16," he added.
- The government stated that those who put documents on Rafale deal in public domain are guilty under Official Secrets Act and of contempt of court. The Attorney General further said the report by The Hindu on Rafale also amounts to influencing hearing in the court and is itself in contempt of court.
- The Attorney General also appealed to the court to exercise restraint while hearing the matter. "Every statement by this court is used to destabilise either the government or the opposition. Why should the court become a party to such an exercise? This is why I am appealing to this court to exercise restraint. Defence procurements can't be judicially examined," said A-G.
- Petioner-advocate ML Sharma said that all review petitions should be junked since nobody has brought on record the CAG report on Rafale deal, saying the acquisition is economical and proved to be less costly.
- The Supreme Court also declined to accept on record a letter given by The Hindu editor N Ram to Prashant Bhushan. “Please confine your case to the documents already submitted. We are not going to look into any new document at this stage,” the court stated.
- Prashant Bhushan stated there was serious error of facts in the Rafale judgment. He alleged that the government was trying to mislead the court and that the top court must “haul up” the government for perjury.
- Bhushan also countered the A-G's arguments, citing how whistleblowers gave him the entry register of ex-CBI director Ranjit Sinha and other documents relied upon by the SC while ordering probe into the 2G scam.
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