New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the Centre to circulate a letter for adjournment in tomorrow's scheduled hearing on Rafale review pleas. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi allowed the Centre's counsel to circulate the letter among parties which include petitioners who have filed review pleas.
In a setback to the Centre, the apex court had on April 10 allowed the pleas which relied on leaked documents for seeking review of its Rafale judgement and dismissed the government's preliminary objections claiming "privilege" over them.
The Centre had submitted that the three privileged documents were unauthorisedly removed from the Defence Ministry and used by the petitioners to support their review petitions against the December 14, 2018 judgement of the apex court which had dismissed all pleas challenging the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
The top court had rejected the objections raised by the Centre that those documents were not admissible as evidence under Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act, and no one can produce them in court without the permission of the department concerned as they are also protected under the Official Secrets Act. It had noted that all the three documents were in "public domain" and published by prominent daily The Hindu were "in consonance with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech".
It had said the documents used by former Union ministers Yaswant Sinha and Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan in their plea were published in ‘The Hindu' in February and one of the papers was also published by ‘The Wire'.
The apex court had also noted that no law enacted by Parliament specifically barring or prohibiting the publication of such documents on any of the grounds mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Constitution has been brought to its notice. The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.
A deal to procure the jets was signed between India and France in 2015. The delivery is expected to begin in September this year.