Can Classified Rafale Papers Be Used As Evidence? Court Decides Tomorrow

New Delhi: 

The Supreme Court will tomorrow deliver its verdict on whether classified documents sourced from the Defence Ministry by the media without authorisation can be used as “evidence” in the Rafale fighter jet case.

Petitioners Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie want the top court to examine articles published in The Hindu and order a CBI probe into the matter, but the centre has opposed it on the grounds that the documents were photocopied without due permission.  

The Supreme Court ruled in December last year that it has found nothing wrong with the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft negotiated by the Narendra Modi government. Four public interest litigations seeking a court-monitored investigation into the Rafale deal were also dismissed. 

However, the court agreed to hear review petitions on its previous verdict last month. 

In a series of reports on the deal, The Hindu said that the defence ministry had objected to “parallel negotiations” for Rafale jets by the Prime Minister’s Office. Another report said the deal became more expensive for India because of France’s refusal to provide bank guarantees.

N Ram — chairman of The Hindu Publishing Group — said the documents were published in public interest, and the media group will fiercely protect its sources. During the last hearing of the Rafale case, the government claimed that classified documents were “stolen” from the Defence ministry. It later clarified that the documents were not stolen, but photocopied.

The centre, which maintains that the documents give an incomplete picture of the deal, says that the individuals who unauthorisedly photocopied the documents have “offended India’s agreement with foreign country” as it contains a secrecy clause. The government further claims that relying on “secret documents” amounts to violating the Official Secrets Act, for which the punishment is imprisonment or fine.

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