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Rafale LIVE: SC Reserves Order on Whether it Would Examine Papers 'Leaked' From Defence Ministry

News18.com | March 14, 2019, 5:07 PM IST
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Rafale LIVE: The Supreme Court has reserved its order on whether it would examine the documents submitted by Prashant Bhushan and others in the review petitions filed in the Rafale deal. The government has argued these documents are privileged and cannot be produced in court without its permission. The petitioners, on the other hand, have argued that not everything can be brushed aside in the name of national security.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, referred to section 123 of the Evidence Act and provisions of RTI Act to buttress his claim. But Justice Joseph said RTI Act applies for even sensitive information in cases of corruption and human rights violation, rejecting the government arguments. The A-G has urged the court to remove the leaked-out pages from the review petitions since the government is claiming privilege over these documents.
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Mar 14, 2019 4:07 pm (IST)

CJI-led bench reserves order on whether it would examine the documents submitted by Prashant Bhushan and others on Rafale deal. On the next date, Supreme Court will fix the schedule of hearing the review petitions.

Mar 14, 2019 4:06 pm (IST)

Arun Shourie thanks A-G and the Govt. "We thank the A-G that by saying in their affidavit that these are photocopies, they have proved the genuineness of these documents," says Shourie.

Mar 14, 2019 4:01 pm (IST)

Bhushan concludes his argument. Senior advocate Vikas Singh appears for another petitioner, Vineet Dhanda. Singh says Govt can't claim privilege on these documents.

Mar 14, 2019 4:00 pm (IST)

Prashant Bhushan cites Pentagon Papers case of US, in which defence documents relating to Vietnam War were allowed to be published. The US Supreme Court in an emphatic judgment had rejected the government claim of national security, says Bhushan. Bhushan cites the US SC judgment to buttress the claim that documents illegally obtained are admissible as evidence in court.

Mar 14, 2019 3:47 pm (IST)

Bhushan reads out previous orders of the Supreme Court in connection with entry registers of Ex-CBI director Ranjit Sinha, showing his meetings with accused in 2G Scam and Coal block. He points out disclosing the source isn't a necessity when issues are of public interest.

Mar 14, 2019 3:41 pm (IST)

CJI asks Bhushan to focus on the preliminary objections, regarding the admissibility of the leaked documents. "Once we get over the A-G's preliminary objections, we can hear you on other aspects," says Justice Gogoi.

Mar 14, 2019 3:40 pm (IST)

Govt has itself filed a detailed report regarding as many as 10 defence purchases. It is untenable on their part to now claim the privilege. And Rafale is the only case where they redacted pricing details: Bhushan tells Supreme Court

Mar 14, 2019 3:38 pm (IST)

Prashant Bhushan asks why the Govt didn't lodge any FIR when these documents started coming out since November 2018. How can they question leaks when they themselves leaked a document containing notings by the then Defence Minister, says Bhushan.

Mar 14, 2019 3:26 pm (IST)

On being asked, Advocate Prashant Bhushan says he doesn't need time to file a reply to the Govt's affidavit filed yesterday. Bhushan argues all the documents are already in public domain and hence, it is an untenable plea by the Govt to claim privilege on these papers.

Mar 14, 2019 3:23 pm (IST)

Justice Joseph reiterates the #RTI Act brought a revolution. "In 2009, your own Govt said file notings can be made available under the  RTI. Let us not go back now," the judge says.

Mar 14, 2019 3:21 pm (IST)

KM Joseph quizzes Attorney General KK Venugopal again on exempting the documents under national security and effect of RTI jurisprudence. He then  passes on a circular to the Attorney General,  which showed that the Government itself had asserted transparency. To this the A-G says, defence acquisitions, weaponry system relate directly to the security of the State."Should this court now add corruption in Govt as a new ground in the RTI? Issues here relate to national  security" A-G says. 

Mar 14, 2019 3:17 pm (IST)

The A-G maintains that leaked papers aren't entitled to be made available under an RTI or under freedom to know. To this, the SC points out that in cases of corruption and human rights violation, RTI act may apply even for sensitive information. "Security of the State supersedes everything else," the govt says. 

Mar 14, 2019 3:11 pm (IST)

During the last hearing of the Rafale case, the government had admitted that classified documents were stolen from the "Defence ministry". After the admission drew opposition attacks, the Attorney General clarified that the documents were not stolen but photocopied.

Mar 14, 2019 3:10 pm (IST)

AG urges Supreme Court to remove the leaked out pages from the review petitions since the Govt is claiming privilege over these documents. He responds to adv ML Sharma's questions over why a case hasn't been registered under Official Secrets Act if papers are classified.

Mar 14, 2019 3:10 pm (IST)

Govt makes yet another 'mistake' | The Rafale hearing in Supreme Court begins.  Attorney General KK Venugopal says they have made a mistake in filing the #CAG report on #RafaleDeal.  "The first three pages are missing and hence, the Govt also wants to bring those pages on record too," he says.

Mar 14, 2019 3:09 pm (IST)

A day before the crucial hearing, the Centre on Wednesday told the top court that documents filed by the petitioners are "sensitive to national security" and those who conspired in photocopying the papers have committed theft and put the security in jeopardy by leaking them, targeting The Hindu newspaper over its investigative stories on the purchase of 36 fighter jets from France.

Mar 14, 2019 3:08 pm (IST)

The top court had in December dismissed petitions alleging that the government had gone for an overpriced deal to help Anil Ambani's company bag an offset contract with jet-maker Dassault. 

Mar 14, 2019 3:08 pm (IST)

The Supreme Court today resumes hearing petitions calling for a review of its Rafale case judgement from December that said there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process amid Congress allegations of corruption in the 2016 jet deal. 

Rafale LIVE: SC Reserves Order on Whether it Would Examine Papers 'Leaked' From Defence Ministry
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com

The top court had in December dismissed petitions alleging that the government had gone for an overpriced deal to help Anil Ambani's company bag an offset contract with jet-maker Dassault. A day before the crucial hearing, the Centre on Wednesday told the top court that documents attached in the review petitions are sensitive to national security and those who conspired in photocopying the papers have committed theft.

The affidavit, filed by the ministry of defence, asks the court to reject the petitions and states that leakage of documents on the fighter jet deal from the ministry through photocopying amounted to theft. It claimed that the documents are sensitive to national security as they relate to war capacity of the combat aircraft.

In the affidavit, the government said the review plea filed by former union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie as also activist advocate Prashant Bhushan has been widely circulated and is available to the country's enemy and adversaries.

"This puts the national security in jeopardy. Without consent, permission or acquiescence of the Central Government, those who have conspired in making the photocopy of these sensitive documents and annexing it to the review petition/ miscellaneous application and thereby committing theft by unauthorized photocopying of such documents...have adversely affected the sovereignty, security and friendly relations with the foreign countries," the affidavit said.

It said that even though the Centre "maintains secrecy", the review petitioners are "guilty of leakage of sensitive information, which offends the terms of the agreements".
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