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The Supreme Court has reserved its order on  examining the documents submitted by  the petitioners who sought a review of the court’s December 14 verdict on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets. Attorney General KK Venugopal argued that these documents are privileged and cannot be produced in court without permission, while on behalf of the petioners it was argued that national security cannot be toted as a reason for brushing it aside. The counsel for the petitioners cited the example of the Pentagon Papers  judgement in the United States to make his point.

Venugopal said under the Official Secrets Act disallows defence ministry documents  cannot be admitted in the Supreme Court. He told the SC that documents presented by the petitioners  were classified  and cannot be put in the public domain. But Justice KM Joseph said RTI Act  had made file notings have lose the sanctity after the RTI Act got notified. Justice Joseph pointed out that in cases of “public interest and cases of currputioon”,  the government is bound to furnish documents in such cases, the Supreme Court judge said.

Earlier the AG  had urged the court to remove the leaked-out pages from the review petitions since the government is claiming privilege over these documents. He was responsing to advocate ML Sharma’s questions over why a case hasn’t been registered under Official Secrets Act if papers are classified. The SC though SC while referring to RTI Act having overriding effect over Official Secrets Act as per Section 22 and Section 24 RTI Act says ‘even intelligence &security establishments bound to give info about corruption& human rights violations.’ The AG replied : Security of state supersedes everything .

In  the last hearing of the petition on March 7, Venugopal had said that that the Rafale deal documents were stolen from the government and those publishing them were guilty under the Official Secrets Act. However, a day after his controversial statement he took a U-turn and said that petitioners in the application used “photocopies of the original” papers, deemed secret by the government.

A three-judge bench headed by the CJI is hearing petitions seeking review of its December 14 verdict on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets in an open court. There are two separate review petitions filed in the SC.

In its verdict in December last year, the top court dismissed all petitions seeking a probe into the pricing of multi-million dollar Rafale fighter jets deal. A bench, headed by Gogoi, said there was “nothing questionable” in the decision-making process for the Rafale deal. “We are satisfied that there is no occasion to doubt the process.

–India Legal Bureau

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