After the Attorney General submitted in the supreme court that the Rafale documents produced in the court by petitioners were stolen from the defence ministry, the hearing in the review petitions on the Rafale deal resumed after lunch today.
In the beginning, the Supreme Court objected to certain statements made by Sanjay Singh against the Supreme Court and refused to hear him. CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that the bench is taking it very seriously and will take serious action against him. The court asked advocate Sanjay Hegde to inform the same to his client Sanjay Singh. The AAP leader is one of the persons who has filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on the Rafale deal.
Referring to Attorney General KK Venugopal telling the court that Rafale documents published by newspapers and used by petitioners were stolen from defence ministry and government is considering action for the same, petitioner Prashant Bhushan said that is an attempt to intimidate the petitioners and to stop them from bringing truth to the Court. He also said that it amounts to contempt of court.
The Attorney General than produced the RTI act and submitted that defence documents are exempted from disclosure under the act. He mentioned that documents published by Hindu are marked as “secret”, and they are not intended to be in the public domain. After the documents were published, huge damage has been done to India’s national security, KK Venugopal added.
Attorney General KK Venugopal also asked whether the Supreme Court will give directions to go to War or negotiate for peace. “Certain issues are outside the purview of judicial review. Do we have to come to the court to justify when we declare war, when we declare peace? Do we have to come and seek permission of the court every time?”, he said.
He then mentioned the need for Rafale jets for the country, but the bench asked him to stick to the review petition.
Disagreeing with the AG, Justice K M Joseph said that even stolen evidence can be looked into by the court as per the Evidence Act. He said that if some corruption has taken place, the government can’t take shelter under the Official Secrets Act. But the Attorney General disagreed and said that the source of documents is important. He asked how the petitioners got the classified documents of the defence ministry.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi asked AG, if an accused is having difficulty proving his innocence, steals a document and produced in court which clearly show that he is innocent, should the judge ignore the document just because it is stolen. To this, Venugopal has to disclose the source of the document.
The CJI Ranjan Gogoi asked AG to produce the authority that says the source of evidence is important. On this, AG produced a 2004 judgement by Supreme Court which had said that illegally obtained evidence cannot be relied upon. Justice Kaul also disagreed with the AG by saying that as documents have come to the court, he can’t say that the court should not look into them. He said that even if the AG is correct, some issues deserve to be heard if they “shock the conscience of the court”.
The Attorney General reiterated that the purchase of the Rafale jets are essential for the nation to survive against the enemies. He said that the issue has a political angle, and CAG has already submitted its report on the deal in Parliament, and the parliament will look into the issue. The AG also requested the court to exercise restraint in the limited are of defence matters, as anything said by the court is used by the opposition to target the government. He also said alleged that opposition is trying to destabilise the government using this case.
#Rafale: In this limited area concerning defence of frontiers, would it not be appropriate for Your Lordships to exercise restraint.
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) March 6, 2019
Prashant Bhushan rejected the arguments of AG, saying that even in 2G and Coalgate cases court had relied upon such documents. He said during those cases also the government had made similar arguments but those were dismissed by the court.
He also said that he has mentioned that the documents have been published by The Hindu and the Caravan Magazine, so it is wrong to say that he has not disclosed the source of his documents.
CJI Ranjan Gogoi said that if the court accepts the AG’s argument, then it will dismiss, else it will go ahead. To that Prashant Bhushan said that even if the documents are not accepted it won’t make significant difference to the case, as sources have been mentioned in most of the documents submitted by him.
The hearing in the case has been adjourned till 14th March.