SC rejects Centre's plea, Rafale to be heard on merit

Photo: IANS

New Delhi (IANS) The Supreme Court in an unanimous judgment on Wednesday rejected the preliminary objections raised by the central government, as a result the Rafale review petitions will now be heard on merits. The court will look into the documents published.

The court rejected the Centre's claim of privilege over the three documents that were annexed by the former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan in their plea. 

The plea sought the recall and review of 2018 judgment giving clean chit to the government for acquiring 36 ready to fly Rafale fighter jets.

The top court by its December 14, 2018, judgment had said that the decision making process for acquiring the jets was not in doubt. 

Dismissing the preliminary objections by the government, the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, also speaking for Justice Sanjay Krishan Kaul, said that the review petition has to be heard by taking into account three documents whose admissibility was questioned by the government. 

CJI Gogoi said that the date for the hearing of the review petition by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan would be given by a separate order. Justice K.M. Joseph gave a separate but concurring judgment.

The top court had on March 14 reserved the order on the "preliminary issue and the claim of privilege by the government". 

The government, while seeking privilege over the documents annexed by Sinha, Shourie, and Bhushan, had sought the removal of three "privileged" documents from the case records which it had claimed put in the public domain the information relating to the national security and the combat capacity of the fighter jet.

The government had initially claimed that the documents were stolen but later backtracked, and changed its stance saying that they were "unauthorisedly photocopied".

Sinha, Shourie, and Bhushan had annexed three documents with their two pleas - seeking the review of the court's December 14, 2018 judgment giving a clean chit to the government in the decision-making process and an application alleging perjury against the government officials for misleading the court and suppressing material information relating to Rafale deal.

Bhushan had termed the Centre's objections as "mala fide", saying that it was "not to prevent any harm to the security or defence of the country but to prevent the court from taking these documents into consideration while deciding the issue before it".

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