Rafale case hearing adjourned to March 14

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The India Observer,New Delhi, March 6: The Supreme Court has adjourned the hearing in the politically sensitive Rafale case after Wednesday’s three-hour hearing in which the government resisted a probe into the deal with France on the grounds that the documents were stolen from the defense ministry and cannot be shown in court as they would affect national security.

The government’s argument, forwarded by Attorney General KK Venugopal, was aggressively opposed by the petitioners. Prashant Bhushan who argued that whistleblowers had given him the entry register of Ex-CBI director Ranjit Sinha and other documents in the 2G case when the SC had ordered a probe.

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The Supreme Court also came down heavily on the government for citing Pakistan’s use of F-16 fighter jets in the recent aerial confrontation to resist the probe into the acquisition of Rafale fighter jets. Justice KM Joseph questioned Attorney General KK Venugopal if the government would take shelter under national security when the allegation is of grave crime and corruption.

Before the SC adjourned the Rafale case, petitioner Arun Shourie claimed that anti-corruption clauses in the deal were omitted with retrospective effect overlooking defense ministry’s objection.

Shourie hits out at the government by saying that every person in this country can look into the referred documents but the Court cannot. “Interesting proposition by AG!”, Shourie remarks.

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Representing the government during a hearing of review pleas against the Supreme Court’s Rafale verdict, Attorney General KK Venugopal accused the Hindu newspaper of using the document “selectively”.

“These documents are not admissible. Having these documents is an offense under the Official Secrets Act. The government is planning to launch a prosecution,” Venugopal said, adding that the review petitions should be dismissed.

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Advocate Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners, meanwhile, alleged that the government lied in court on the Rafale deal and should be pulled up for perjury.

The Supreme Court, reacting to the allegations of theft made against The Hindu, asked the Attorney General what steps or actions have been taken by the government after the documents were reportedly stolen. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked Venugopal to seek instructions and appraise the steps taken by the government by Wednesday afternoon.

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The court also declined to accept on record, a letter given by The Hindu Editor N Ram to Bhushan regarding the Rafale deal. “Please confine your case to the documents already submitted. We are not going to look into any new document at this stage,” it observed.

The top court had on December 14 last year given a clean chit to the Modi government on acquiring 36 Rafale jet fighters in a ready-to-fly condition from French company Dassault Aviation. The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice KM Joseph had on February 26 decided to hold an open court hearing of the pleas seeking the recall of its judgment.

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Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi

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