Rafale setback for Govt, SC accepts ‘stolen’ papers as evidence

New Delhi: In a major setback for the government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the preliminary objections raised by the Centre on the admissibility of certain documents sought to be relied on by petitioners seeking review in the Rafale matter. The said documents were published by The Hindu newspaper and later carried by news agency ANI.

The Centre had contended that the documents were “sensitive to national security” and their “unauthorised photocopying and leakage” constituted “penal offences under the Indian Penal Code including theft”.

The Bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi dismissed the preliminary objections raised by the Centre and decided that it would go ahead with the hearing of review petitions in the light of new documents cited by petitioners alleging wrong-doing in the Rafale deal. The petitions would be decided on merits.

This means classified documents sourced by the media without authorization can be considered evidence. It is a huge win for a free press at a time questions have been raised over strong-arm tactics to suppress the media.

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The bench had on December 14, 2018, dismissed petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the purchase of the jets from France finding “no occasion to doubt the (decision making) process” leading to the award of the contract and said there was no material to show that the government had favoured anyone commercially.

Shourie, Sinha and Bhushan sought a review of the judgment, saying the court had relied on “patently incorrect” claims made by the government in its note submitted in a sealed cover to the bench, which heard the original petition. They claimed that more information had come to light subsequently and not considering them would result in a grave miscarriage of justice.

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