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Rafale review plea: Supreme Court issues formal notice to Centre, seeks reply by Saturday

The Supreme Court had, 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.

SNS | New Delhi |

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, issued a formal notice to the Centre on the review petitions filed against the December 14, 2018 judgment on the Rafale deal.

The top court asked the Centre to file its response by Saturday, May 4 while posting the matter for hearing on Monday, May 6, reports ANI.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, representing the government, had sought four weeks time to file a reply on the review; however, the court did not allow the plea.

The SC had, on April 10, decided to hear the review on merits, rejecting the preliminary objections raised by the Centre regarding admissibility of documents produced by petitioners who have prayed for review of the December 14 judgment.

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

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.

The Supreme Court had, 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 had allowed the centre’s lawyer to circulate the letter among parties which include petitioners who have filed the review plea.

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. 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.