Delhi: In a major setback to the Centre, Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed government's preliminary objections seeking review of earlier judgment giving clean chit to the Union Government in Rafale deal.
The apex court allowed admissibility of three documents in Rafale deal as evidence in re-examining the review petitions filed against the SC's December 14 judgement refusing to order probe in procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
Supreme Court has said that 'as far as the question of hearing of review plea on Rafale judgement is concerned, it will give a detailed hearing later on'.
The Centre had submitted that the privilege documents were procured by petitioners in an illegal way and used to support their review petitions against the December 14, 2018 judgement of the apex court dismissing all pleas challenging procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
"We dismiss the preliminary objection raised by Union of India questioning the maintainability of the review petition," a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said.
The top court bench comprising CJI Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Joseph had on March 14 had reserved the order on the "preliminary issue and the claim of privilege by the government".
Petitioners in the case are former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, journalist-turned-politician Arun Shourie and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan. Two judgments are likely today -- one by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and the other by Justice K.M. Joseph.
The government, aborting earlier deal to acquire 126 fighter jets, opted for 36 Rafale jets in ready-to-fly condition. Of the 126 jets in the earlier deal, most were to be manufactured at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
The government seeking privilege over the documents annexed by Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan had sought removal of three "privileged" documents from the case records which has put in public domain the information relating to the deal and the fighter jet.
The government had initially claimed that the documents were stolen but later backtracked and changed its stance saying that they were "unauthorisedly photocopied".
The Centre had contended that the disclosure of these documents, on which it had claimed privilege, have a bearing on the national security and the combat capacity of the fighter jets.
Seeking removal of the documents which were "unauthorisedly photocopied", Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had told the court that "the security of the state supersedes everything else".
Sinha, Shourie and Bhushan had annexed three documents with their two pleas -- seeking the review of the court's December 14, 2018 judgment giving a clean chit to the government in the decision-making process, and an application alleging perjury against the government officials for misleading the court and suppressing material information relating to the Rafale deal.
Bhushan had termed the Centre's objections as "mala fide", saying that it was "not to prevent any harm to the security or defence of the country but to prevent the court from taking these documents into consideration while deciding the issue before it".