Rafale deal: Monitoring by PMO cannot be seen as interference, Centre tells SC in fresh affidavits
The government claimed that unsubstantiated media reports and internal file notings ‘projected in a selective manner’ cannot be the basis for review petitions.
The Centre on Saturday told the Supreme Court that the decision of the Prime Minister’s Office to monitor the Rafale jet deal cannot be construed as interference, Live Law reported. The government made this contention in its affidavits filed in the court against review petitions seeking an inquiry into the defence agreement.
The Ministry of Defence said the December 14, 2018, judgement of the Supreme Court that had dismissed all petitions seeking an inquiry into the government’s procurement of the Rafale fighter jets was correct. The government reasoned that unsubstantiated media reports or internal file notings “deliberately projected in a selective manner” should not be the basis for review pleas.
The petitions seeking a review into the December verdict rely on information in media reports published in February. In March, the Centre had asked for the petitions to be dismissed, claiming they were based on “secret files” accessed from the Defence Ministry. However, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on April 10 unanimously dismissed the Centre’s objections to the review petitions.
In its affidavit filed on Saturday, the Centre claimed that the court’s April 10 decision allowing the petitioners to reinforce their case with the secret file notings “could lead to the revelation of all closely guarded state secrets relating to space, nuclear installations, strategic defence capabilities, operational deployment of forces, intelligence resources in the country and outside, counter-terrorism and counter insurgency measures etc”. The government said such disclosures “will have grave repercussions on the very existence of the Indian state”, and urged the top court to dismiss the review pleas right away, reported News18.
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.
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”.