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The Supreme Court today dismissed the Central government’s preliminary objections on the maintainability of the Review Petitions filed in the Rafale case.
The Review Petitions against the Rafale judgment will now be heard on merits.
The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph. Justice Joseph wrote a separate, concurring judgment.
The review petitions were filed against the Court’s judgment of December 14, 2018 by which it had dismissed the plea seeking an investigation into the controversial Rafale deal.
When the review petitions had come up for hearing, Attorney General for India KK Venugopal had contended that a note which the petitioners had submitted to the Court was “stolen”, from the Defence Ministry. He had subsequently clarified that he meant to say that the documents obtained were photocopied without permission.
He argued that using the contents of the Defence Ministry note amounted to an offence under the Official Secrets Act. It was his contention that such stolen documents cannot be relied upon by the Court unless the source from which the same was procured is disclosed.
Further, he had also submitted that the document in question can be withheld from disclosure under the RTI Act.
He had also placed reliance on Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act to submit that any evidence which is derived from unpublished official records relating to any affairs of State, unless done so with the permission of the officer concerned, is not admissible as evidence.
He had, therefore, sought dismissal of the Review Petitions in limine without going into the merits of the case.
During the course of the hearing, Justice KM Joseph had quizzed Venugopal on whether a “stolen” document ought not to be considered by the Court if it is relevant to the case.
After hearing the arguments on the preliminary objection raised by the Centre against the Rafale Review Petitions, the Court reserved its judgment in the case on March 14.
The Review Petitions were filed challenging the December 14 judgment, by which the Court had held that it was satisfied that the process for procurement of the 36 Rafale jets has been complied with.
However, immediately after the judgment was pronounced, an error had come to light. Review Petitions were subsequently filed, pointing out that the judgment was based on “errors apparent on the face of the record”, and ought to be recalled. The petitioners had sought an open court hearing, which was allowed by the Court.
Read the judgment: