New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday wrapped up the hearing on preliminary objections by the Centre that review petitioners in the Rafale jet deal case cannot rely on privileged documents obtained illegally. After an hour-long hearing, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi reserved the order on the plea which also sought removal of the documents from the case records.
The development came a day after the Centre told the top court that documents attached by the petitioners relate to war capacity of combat aircraft and are ‘sensitive to national security’.
The review pleas were filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and activist advocate Prashant Bhushan against the December 14 verdict dismissing all the pleas against the deal procured by India from France.
In an affidavit, the government said the leaked information was now available to the “enemy/our adversaries”, adding those who have conspired in this leakage were guilty of penal offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code.
The Centre had contended that the documents which were unauthorisedly photocopied belonged to a class for which it was “entitled to claim privilege under Section 123 and 124 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.”
Asserting that the petitioners had “no authority” to produce the documents before the court without its “explicit permission”, the affidavit says that these documents are exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(a) of the Right to Information Act.
Earlier during March 6 hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal, who is representing the Centre, had alleged before the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph that the review petition was based on the documents which were stolen from the ministry. However, two days later he retracted and said that in his submission, he meant that the petitioners in their application had used ‘photocopies of the original’ papers, deemed secret by the government.
(With agency inputs)