SC adjourns Rafale deal case till March 14

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 08, 2019 12:58 hrs
Rafale Fighter Jet (AP photo)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the hearing in the Rafale fighter jets deal case till March 14, after the government said that certain documents pertaining to the deal were stolen from the Defence Ministry.

The apex court was hearing on petitions seeking review of its December 14, 2018 verdict that had dismissed pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph heard the matter.

During the hearing, Chief Justice Gogoi said, "Primary question is that should the court not look into the evidence or the document if there is relevance or corruption?"

Attorney General KK Venugopal said, "It should not be looked into as it deals with Defence and secrets."

He said that the source of the document should be disclosed to the court by those who published it.

Venugopal said that if a CBI investigation is directed now, huge damage will be done to the country.

Certain documents pertaining to the Rafale fighter jets deal were stolen from the Defence Ministry and a probe has been initiated into the matter, Venugopal told the top court earlier today.

Venugopal in his submission said note files were stolen and one of the national dailies had published it. "We are dealing with defence purchases which involve the security of the state. It is a very sensitive case," he said.

The apex court last month allowed for an open court hearing of the Rafale review petitions.

In its December 14 order, the top court had dismissed petitions seeking a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the Rafale deal signed two years back, alleging irregularities and corruption in the pact.

On January 2, petitioners in Rafale fighter jet deal case — Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, both former Union Ministers, and Prashant Bhushan, a noted lawyer — had moved the apex court for review of its Rafale judgment of December 14.

They had asked for recalling of the judgement and had also sought an oral hearing in the open court for their review plea.

Their petition states that the December 14 verdict contained several errors and also it relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the Government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover to the court, which is a violation of the principle of natural justice.

They also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had signed an agreement for 36 Rafale jets on April 10, 2015, without any such requirement of 36 jets being given by the Air Force Headquarters and without the approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), which are the mandated first steps for any defence procurement.