- Centre against release of classified documents on Rafale jet deal
- It could have "grave repercussions on very existence of Indian state"
- Centre said documents could lead to revelation of defence secrets
In an affidavit in the Supreme Court today, the government said the release of classified documents from the Defence Ministry related to the Rafale fighter jet deal could have "grave repercussions on the very existence of the Indian state". The affidavit was in response to the top court's order on pleas filed by former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha and activist-advocate Prashant Bhushan.
The centre argued that the release of these documents could lead to the revelation of secrets relating to space, nuclear installations, strategic defence capabilities, operational deployment of forces, intelligence resources in the country and outside, counter-terrorism and insurgency measures, etc.
The affidavit was in response to a petition, filed on the basis of the aforementioned documents and subsequent press reports, calling for a review of the December 2018 clean chit on the Rafale deal, which, it was argued, was a re-worked version of a UPA-era deal to buy 36 Rafale aircraft from at a higher price tag.
Calling the petition "wholly without merit", the affidavit, filed by the Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager in the ministry, on behalf of the government, said it relied on "unsubstantiated media reports and/or part internal file notings deliberately projected in a selective manner, which for reasons set out above cannot form the basis for a review".
It also recalled part of the 2018 verdict which said review petitions are an attempt to get a fishing and roving enquiry ordered.
In April the court, in a setback to the centre, rejected the plea that the classified documents accessed by the media could not be used as evidence. It allowed the admissibility of three documents as evidence in re-examining review petitions filed against the clean chit verdict.
"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 SK Kaul and KM Joseph said.
Part of that petition also included reference to a document cited by The Hindu that said "parallel discussions by the PMO have weakened the negotiating positions by the MoD and the negotiating team".
It also argued that the media articles in question were not the final decision of the government, saying, "The three articles express the views of retired/ individual functionaries and NOT final decision of the Govt. The three articles do not convey the complete official stand of the Govt".
Maintaining that the court had limited role in matters relating to defence, the government said it was nevertheless ready to submit any documents needed.
The next hearing on this matter has been scheduled for May 6, which is also the date for the fifth round of polling for the ongoing 2019 Lok Sabha election.