- The next hearing on Rafale deal is on May 6, in the middle of elections
- Judges unanimously dismissed centre's objections over leaked documents
- Centre says classified documents accessed by media can't be evidence
The government today asked for four weeks to reply to a petition calling for a review of the Supreme Court clean chit on the Rafale jet deal. The Supreme Court gave it four days, asking for a reply by Saturday. The next hearing is on Monday May 6, in the middle of the national election that will end on May 19.
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kaul and KM Joseph announced the decision after the centre asked for "at least four weeks" to file its reply to new documents submitted by petitioners.
In a setback to the centre, the top court had on April 10 rejected the centre's argument that classified documents accessed by the media on the Rafale fighter jet deal can't be evidence. The court had said it would examine the secret documents while considering petitions asking for a review of its order giving the government a clean chit on the deal that the opposition alleges was corrupt.
The judges unanimously dismissed the centre's objections to considering documents leaked from the defence ministry as evidence and said they would go ahead with the hearing of review petitions, which would be decided on merit.
This meant classified documents sourced by the media without authorisation can be considered by the court.
Citing internal notes of the defence ministry, a series of reports published by The Hindu said the ministry had objected to "parallel negotiations" for the jets by the Prime Minister's Office.
Pointing to the documents, petitioners had called for a review of the December verdict in which the court had dismissed petitions challenging the deal for 36 Rafale jets. The court had said there was no reason to "really doubt the decision-making process" or any reason for intervention by the court on the "sensitive issue".