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Posted at: Mar 15, 2019, 7:00 AM; last updated: Mar 15, 2019, 12:02 PM (IST)

Will first decide objection by Centre on Rafale papers: SC

Will first decide objection by Centre on Rafale papers: SC

New Delhi, March 14

The Supreme Court today said it would first decide on the preliminary objections raised by the Centre and then go into the facts of the Rafale fighter jet deal case.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi  wrapped up the hearing on preliminary objections by the Centre that the review petitioners in the Rafale jet deal case cannot rely on privileged documents obtained illegally.

The top court asked the petitioners seeking a review of its order to focus on the preliminary objections rega-rding admissibility of the leaked documents.

“Only after we decide the preliminary objection raised by the Centre, we will go into the facts of the case,” said the Bench, also comprising Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph.

At the outset, Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, claimed privilege over documents pertaining to the fighter jet deal with France and told the Supreme Court that no one can produce them in the court without the permission of the department concerned.

Venugopal referred to Section 123 of the Evidence Act and provisions of the RTI Act to buttress his claim. He said no one can publish documents related to national security.

Advocate Prashant Bhush-an, one of the petitioners seeking a review, opposed the submission and said the Rafale deal documents, which the AG says are privileged, have been published and are already in public domain. 

Former Union minister Arun Shourie, one of the review petitioners, submitted that he was thankful to the Centre and the AG for saying in their affidavit that these are photocopies, proving the genuineness of these documents.

Bhushan said provisions of the RTI Act say public interest outweighs other things and no privilege can be claimed except for documents which pertain to intelligence agencies.

There is no government-to-government contract in buying Rafale jets as there is no sovereign guarantee extended to India by France in the Rs 58,000-crore deal, Bhushan said. He also said the Press Council of India Act provides provisions for protecting sources of journalists. — PTI

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