The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, also comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph today slammed the government for citing Pakistan’s use of F-16 fighter jets in the recent aerial combat to resist an investigation into the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets from France.
The Court said,
"....issue of national security doesn't arise when question in review is that the plea of investigation hasn't been considered."Are you going to take shelter under national security when the allegations is of grave crime, corruption?"
The Court adjourned the Rafale case till March 14.
During the course of argument today, Mr. Arun Shourie, one of the petitioner in the case contended that during the deal, anti-corruption clauses were omitted with retrospective effect in order to overlook defence ministry's objection.
The bench was conducting an open Court hearing of petitions seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s judgment in which it handed a clean chit to the Narendra Modi government regarding the purchase of the Rafale fighter jets deal.
The Supreme Court also questioned Attorney General K K Venugopal over the allegations of theft of the documents levelled against the English daily The Hindu. The Court wanted an answer regarding the steps initiated by the Govt. for reportedly stolen documents.
Pertinently, the Attorney General accused the said paper of stealing confidential government documents from the Ministry.
Mr. Venugopal maintained that the documents published by "The Hindu" by omitting the word 'Secret' at the top were in violation of the Official Secrets Act.
The government who sought the Court to quash the review petitions said,
"The petitioners are relying on stolen evidence. Govt cannot come to court every time we have to declare."
However, in reply to such contention, Justice KM Joseph clarified, "The issue here is that the law of the country has been broken by corrupted practices. Even stolen evidence can be looked into, provided it is relevant and authentic. You must talk about the law."
It was also revealed that the FIR for the stolen Rafale Deal documents has not been registered so far and the government also alleged that the petitioners are relying on stolen evidence and if the FIR would have registered it would also comprise the name of the petitioners, Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan.
The Court today also declined to entertain review petition moved by Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh against the court’s verdict on Rafale fighter jet deal, stating that the Court will not hear his plea as he made some “very, very derogatory statements” about the institution of judiciary.
The Court said,
"We are not going to hear you,”
The review petitions were filed by former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan among others in connection with the December 14, 2018, judgement of the Supreme Court in which it dismissed a bunch of petitions seeking a court-monitored probe pertaining to the purchase of the jet fighters.
The court ruled that the decision-making process was not suspicious on any ground and further added that it would not dive into the question of pricing and the choice of offset Indian partner by Dassault.
The plea for recall of the judgment alleged that the Supreme Court's judgement, relied upon a non-existent Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report as the judgement said that the CAG report was finalised and examined before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which were apparently “incorrect claims” made by the Centre.
The petitioners also sought initiation of perjury against the Centre for filing misleading notes in a sealed cover which were allegedly containing fabricated information regarding the Rafale case.