Supreme court gives 5 days for government to respond to Rafale review pleas

Rafale jet deal has become the Achilles heal for the BJP government. No respite for government in the coming future as the court refused it’s plea to respond in a month. Instead, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) gave them time till Saturday to respond.

The Bench, headed by CJI Gogoi, also directed the government to respond by affidavit to a separate application for initiating perjury proceedings against those in the government who had allegedly “suppressed” vital documents and circumstances of the Rafale jets’ purchase from the court.

The court, earlier upheld the jets’ deal on December 14 by saying that it had limited jurisdiction over defence deals. In another judgment on April 10, the court rejected the government protests to maintainability of the review petitions against the December 14 order.

The brief hearing on Tuesday on the review petitions began with Attorney General K.K. Venugopal informing the court that the government had circulated a letter to all the parties concerned for a deferment of the hearing.

Mr. Venugopal said a fresh response was required from the government as there were new documents annexed in the review petitions. “Give us some time… Your April 10 judgment allowed these documents. There was no formal notice issued to the Union of India,” he submitted.

“If your grievance is that no notice was issued, we will issue notice,” the CJI responded.

At this point, advocate Prashant Bhushan, one of the review petitioners, pointed out that the application filed by them, including former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, to initiate perjury proceedings against government officials who submitted “false information” in the Rafale case was also listed and the court should issue formal notice on that too. The court asked them to issue another petition for perjury.

The case of Rafale deal is quite stringent. The government had claimed that the review pleas were based on secret Rafale documents unauthorisedly removed from the Ministry of Defence and leaked to the media. Mr. Venugopal had argued that “stolen” documents came under the protection of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). They were not admissible in evidence in a court of law. Claiming privilege, the government wanted the court to ignore the documents, even if they were found to be germane to the Rafale case, and dismiss the review petitions at a preliminary stage.

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