The Supreme Court in a unanimous judgment on Wednesday rejected the preliminary objections raised by the central government to the review a petition filed on its December 2018 order in the case. In its previous order, the court had given a clean chit to the Centre in the Rafale deal. When petitioners – former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan – filed for review, the government initially claimed that the three documents they had annexed as part of their petition were “stolen” and should not be admissible. Later, the government backtracked and changed its stance saying that they were "unauthorisedly photocopied" – however, they claimed that the disclosure of these documents will have a bearing on national security and the combat capacity of the fighter jets.
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s preliminary objections, which means the Rafale review petition will be heard on its merits.
The petitioners Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant 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.
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".
Prashant 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."
Wednesday’s judgment means that the Supreme Court’s December 14 order giving a clean chit to the Centre on the Rafale fighter jet deal will be reviewed, on the basis that the petitioners have alleged that the government deliberately withheld information from the court.
With IANS inputs