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Rafale deal: SC allows Centre to seek adjournment, to hear petitions today

In a setback to the Centre, the top court had, on April 10, flat out rejected the Centre’s argument that classified documents accessed by the media on the Rafale fighter jet deal can’t be evidence.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the government to circulate a letter for adjournment of Tuesday’s hearing on the review petitions filed against its verdict on the Rafale fighter jet deal on grounds that it needs time to file reply on merits.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi allowed the centre’s lawyer to circulate the letter among parties which include petitioners who have filed the review pleas.

The Centre has contended that the documents were protected under the Official Secrets Act and therefore not admissible as evidence in the court, but the Supreme Court rejected it.

The Centre has contended before the court that the three privileged documents were unauthorisedly removed from the government ministry concerned and then these documents were used by the petitioner to file a review petition challenging the top court judgment of December 14, 2018.

In the December 14, 2018 judgment, the court had dismissed all pleas challenging the Rafale fighter jets deal.

India and France got into a deal in 2015 for the procurement of fighter jets.

In a setback to the Centre, the top court had, on April 10, flat out rejected the Centre’s argument that classified documents accessed by the media on the Rafale fighter jet deal can’t be evidence.

The court noted that the documents were published in consonance with the freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution. The court said it will examine the secret documents while considering petitions asking for a review of its order giving the government a clean chit on the deal that the opposition alleges was corrupt.

Unanimously dismissing the Centre’s objections to considering the documents leaked from the defence ministry as evidence, judges said they would go ahead with the hearing of review petitions, which would be decided on merit.

The Centre had told the court that the documents filed by the petitioners are “sensitive to national security”, those who conspired in photocopying the papers have committed theft and put national security in jeopardy by leaking them to the public.

Dismissing the argument, the court was set to hear the petitions on Tuesday.