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SC hearing on Rafale deal: Two judgments likely on Wednesday

Two judgments are likely on Wednesday -- one by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and the other by Justice K.M. Joseph

Tuesday April 9, 2019 10:36 PM, ummid.com & Agencies

SC hearing Rafale Deal

New Delhi: The Supreme Court of India is likely to pronounce on Wednesday its verdict on the government's plea claiming privilege over the documents filed by petitioners seeking review of its December 14 Rafale judgment.

Petitioners in the case are former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

Two judgments are likely on Wednesday -- one by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and the other by Justice K.M. Joseph.

The top court bench comprising CJI Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Joseph had on March 14 reserved the order on the "preliminary issue and the claim of privilege by the government".

The government, aborting earlier deal to acquire 126 fighter jets, opted for 36 Rafale jets in ready-to-fly condition. Of the 126 jets in the earlier deal, most were to be manufactured at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

The government seeking privilege over the documents annexed by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan had sought removal of three "privileged" documents from the case records which has put in public domain the information relating to the deal and the fighter jet.

The government had initially claimed that the documents were stolen but later backtracked and changed its stance saying that they were "unauthorisedly photocopied".

The Centre had contended that the disclosure of these documents, on which it had claimed privilege, have a bearing on the national security and the combat capacity of the fighter jets.

Seeking removal of the documents which were "unauthorisedly photocopied", Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had told the court that "the security of the state supersedes everything else".

Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan had annexed three documents with their two pleas -- seeking the review of the court's December 14, 2018 judgment giving a clean chit to the government in the decision-making process, and an application alleging perjury against the government officials for misleading the court and suppressing material information relating to the Rafale deal.

Bhushan had termed the Centre's objections as "mala fide", saying that it was "not to prevent any harm to the security or defence of the country but to prevent the court from taking these documents into consideration while deciding the issue before it".

Modi government's submission in the court came after leading English daily The Hindu published a series of articles highlighting irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal. Copies of the document reportedly were also attached by the petitioners seeking review of the SC verdict pronounced on December 14.

On the other hand, N Ram, editor and chairman of The Hindu, said asking questions about the decision making involved and the terms of the deal did not mean that questions are being raised over the quality of Rafale fighter jets.

"No one is questioning the quality of the jets or the need to buy them. However, questions have to be raised on the decision making involved as well as the terms of the deal", N Ram said.

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