A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously dismissed the Centre’s objections to the review petitions seeking an inquiry into the Rafale fighter jet deal, Live Law reported. In March, the government had asked for the review pleas to be dismissed, claiming they were based on “secret files” accessed from the Defence Ministry.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices KM Joseph and SK Kaul, said it would fix a new date for the hearing of the review petitions. The judges said the pleas would be heard on the basis of their merits.
In December, the top court had rejected the need of an inquiry into the Rafale deal, but the petitioners then sought a review. Last month, the court said it will deal with the Centre’s objections before proceeding with the review pleas. The bench had reserved its verdict on the matter on March 14.
Review petitions had been filed by Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie against the court’s judgement given in December.
The review petitions had cited ministry documents revealed by media reports – mainly those published in The Hindu – in February. During the hearings, the government claimed that these were privileged and secret official files, and publishing them is illegal and a threat to security. The government said the disclosure of such details is exempted even by the Right to Information Act and breaches the Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act.
Petitioner Prashant Bhushan, however, told the court that it is settled law that a court should not be concerned about how a document is obtained if it happens to be relevant evidence.
The Congress and other Opposition parties have consistently alleged of corruption in the Rafale deal signed by Narendra Modi’s government. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has brought up the matter multiple times, including in recent rallies ahead of the upcoming elections. He has called the deal a “blatant case of corruption”.