New Delhi: The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) was “monitoring” the progress of the deal to buy 36 Rafale jets from France under a government-to-government process but its role cannot be construed as “interference or parallel negotiations”, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Saturday.
In its response to a review petition on the Rafale deal filed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and advocate Prashant Bhushan seeking a SIT probe into the jet deal, the Centre pointed out that the top court in its December 14, 2018, verdict had correctly concluded that the “perception of individuals cannot be the basis of a fishing and roving inquiry by this court”.
The Centre told the court in a fresh affidavit that in the garb of seeking review of the judgment, and placing reliance on some media reports and some incomplete internal file notings procured unauthorisedly and illegally, the petitioners cannot seek to re-open the whole matter by asking for production of documents,” the Centre said.
The Narendra Modi government’s affidavit follows the top court’s direction earlier this week to respond to the Rafale review petitions by Saturday. The Centre had sought a whole month to respond but the top court gave it just four days to do so.
Apart from the review petition filed by Mr Sinha, Mr Shourie and Mr Bhushan, two other review petitions have been filed by AAP leader Sanjay Singh and advocate Vineet Dhandha. All the review petitions will be taken up for hearing on May 6 by a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
On April 10, the top court rejected the Centre’s assertion that documents published in the media should not be considered as evidence for review and asked the government to file its response through an affidavit.
The affidavit by the defence ministry said that no ground has been made out by the petitioners which would justify a review of the “well-reasoned judgment” passed in December last year, giving a clean chit to the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.
“The attempt by the petitioners to call for production of the documents and in the process try and attempt to get a roving or fishing inquiry ordered is nothing but a complete misuse and abuse of the legal process,” the Centre said.
The Centre said that production of such documents could lead to the revelation of all closely guarded state secrets relating to space, nuclear installations, strategic defence capabilities, operational deployment of forces, intelligence resources in the country and outside, counter-terrorism and counter insurgency measures.
This could also have implications in the financial sector also if say budget proposals are published before they are presented in Parliament, it said.