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Setback to Govt Day Before Election as SC Allows Classified Papers to be Used in Rafale Review Petitions

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, decided by unanimity that the new documents will be relied upon by the top court while adjudicating the bunch of review petitions.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:April 10, 2019, 11:59 AM IST
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Rafale fighter jet
A Rafale fighter jet takes off from France's Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier. (File Photo/Reuters)

New Delhi: In a setback for the Centre, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed the government’s objections regarding certain ‘classified’ documents in the public domain which had raised several questions over the Rafale deal.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, decided by unanimity that the new documents will be relied upon by the top court while adjudicating the bunch of review petitions. The CJI and Justice KM Joseph authored separate but concurring judgments on the point.

The Supreme Court judgment assumes significance since this gives a fresh lease of life to the controversy around the Rafale deal, just a day before the first phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Defence Ministry had earlier filed an affidavit in the apex court in connection with the fighter jet case, claiming that the documents submitted in the review petition are sensitive to national security.

On March 14, the top court had reserved its judgment and said it would decide if the “privileged” documents obtained “illegally” could be looked into. Attorney General KK 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 they were confidential and prohibited under the Official Secrets Act and 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.

Prashant Bhushan, on 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.

In its December verdict, the apex court gave the Narendra Modi government a clean chit over the deal despite the Opposition’s allegations of corruption.

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