Rafale Review Petitions Day 2: Live Updates from the Supreme Court

Rafale Review Petitions Day 2: Live Updates from the Supreme Court

Bar & Bench

The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on the preliminary objections raised by the Central government in the review petitions filed in the Rafale case.

The petitions were heard by a Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph.

Along with the review petition, the Supreme Court will also hear the Central government’s correction application and the application by petitioners seeking perjury proceedings against officials of the Central government.

The review has been filed against the Court’s December 2018 judgment, by which it dismissed petitions calling for an investigation into the Rafale deal.

The last hearing was marked by controversy when Attorney General KK Venugopal insisted that the petitioners had relied on a document “stolen” from the Ministry of Defence. However, he belatedly clarified that he did not claim that the document was stolen.

Live updates of today’s hearing follow:

  • Bench assembles, Rafale hearing commences in Supreme Court.
  • Attorney General KK Venugopal making submissions, relying on Section 123 of Indian Evidence Act to submit that the document in question cannot be used in court without the permission of concerned officer.
  • AG KK Venugopal now submitting that the document can be withheld from disclosure RTI Act too.
  • KM Joseph J. quizzing Attorney General KK Venugopal again on exempting the documents under national security and effect of RTI jurisprudence.
  • RTI Act of 2005 intended to bring a revolution, let us not go back, Justice KM Joseph stresses on RTI jurisprudence and its effect on disclosure of information which used to be withheld earlier on the grounds of security of State.
  • Attorney General KK Venugopal concludes; Advocate Prashant Bhushan now commences submissions.
  • The objection by Centre against disclosure of documents is malafide; the purpose of this objection is not to protect national security or defence secrets, Prashant Bhushan
  • These documents are already in public domain, Prashant Bhushan.
  • Bhushan cites SP Gupta judgment. It laid down that only test to be applied is test of public interest; That is whether public interest would outweigh national security if such documents are disclosed.
  • In this case, the documents in question have already been disclosed and are already in public domain, Bhushan
  • From time to time, the government itself has leaked these documents to friendly media. Like leak of file notings of Raksha Mantri, Bhushan.
  • All kinds of details regarding defence purchases are disclosed in CAG report also.
  • There has been no instance so far of pricing details being redacted in CAG report.
  • Bench asks Bhushan to restrict himself to submissions on Attorney General’s preliminary objection. Only if we overrule the preliminary objection, we will go into other details, CJI Ranjan Gogoi.
  • Bhushan submits that certain documents which have been objected to by Centre now were already part of the  petitioners’ submissions when the main case was filed in November last year.
  • Bhushan citing 2G case wherein “same issue arose regarding disclosure of source” with respect to a register of visitors at a former CBI Director’s residence.
  • In that case, the Supreme Court had turned down forner CBI Director Ranjit Sinha’s request to diclose identity of whistleblower who had accessed the visitors Register of Sinha’s residence, submits Prashant Bhushan.
  • Bhushan citing Judgments laying down that documents illegally obtained is admissible as evidence in court.
  • Prashant Bhushan now citing Pentagon Papers case of USA. This was a case on whether defence documents relating to the Vietnam war could be published. The US Supreme Court in an emphatic judgment rejected the govt claim of national security, Bhushan.
  • Of course, freedom of speech is much wider in US context, but still much of what was stated in that judgment applies here, Prashant Bhushan.
  • Section 123 of Evidence Act does not apply here because it deals with unpublished documents; In this case, documents have already been published.
  • Prashant Bhushan concludes his submissions; Senior Counsel Vikas Singh now arguing on behalf of Vineet Dhanda.
  • None of the documents we have relied upon has anything to do with national security, submits Prashant Bhushan.
  • Is it that we (court) cannot even look into the documents even to ascertain whether the same is privileged? Justice KM Joseph asks Attorney General KK Venugopal.
  • Hearing concludes, Supreme Court reserves verdict on preliminary objections on maintainability raised by Centre.

Read the order below.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news