The concept of confidentiality in documents has undergone a change since the Right To Information Act was put in place, the Supreme Court indicated today during the hearing of petitions that sought review of the judgment in the Rafale case. Seeking that the petitions be dismissed, the Centre has argued that the petitioners have illegally got access to classified documents and made them public.
"File notings have lost the sanctity they had... RTI brought about a revolution, a complete change. In cases of corruption and human rights violations, even sensitive organisations have to disclose information under RTI," said the bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
"According to you, these documents affect national security and court should not interfere... we have to consider it under the RTI act," said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. Petitioner Prashant Bhushan, he said, could file a reply if he wants.
The court has reserved its judgment on whether there has been any breach of confidentiality.
Targeting The Hindu newspaper over its investigative stories on the purchase of the jets, the Centre yesterday said the petitioners have violated the Official Secrets Act and endangered national security.
None of the documents given to the court violates national security, argued lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, who is one of the petitioners in the case.
"When public knew the documents as it had been published, how can the Centre say the court must not look into the documents," Mr Bhushan said. Citing the US verdict on Pentagon papers leak, he said once documents are published, the government can no longer claim privilege.
Regarding the government's argument that the documents have been accessed through illegal means, he said, "If a document is relevant in deciding a fact, it is irrelevant how it was obtained".