Will first decide on Centre's preliminary objections: SC
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday said it will first decide on the preliminary objections raised by the Centre that the documents on which it was claiming "privilege" cannot be relied upon to re-examine the verdict in the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.
"Only after we decide the preliminary objection raised by the Centre, we will go into other aspect of the review petitions," said a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The bench, also comprising Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph said that "only if we overrule the preliminary objection, we will go into other details".
At the outset, Attorney General K K Venugopal, claimed privilege over documents pertaining to the Rafale fighter jet deal with France and said those documents cannot be considered in evidence as per Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act.
He contended that no one can produce them in the court without the permission of the department concerned as those documents are also protected under the Official Secrets Act and there disclosure is exempted under the Right to Information Act as per Section 8(1)(a).
The Centre objected to the admissibility of those documents annexed by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie as also activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan in their review petition against the apex court's December 14 judgement dismissing all petitions against the Rafale jet deal.
Bhushan said the Centre's objections were "mala fide and totally untenable arguments".
The bench said that "argument on the preliminary issue and the claim of privilege raised by the Government of India is reserved". It noted further that according to the AG's submissions "there are three Rafale documents whose publication comes under Official Secrets Act, 1923. These documents were unauthorisedly published. You claim privilege under section 123 of Evidence Act. You want us to adjudicate and strike down the review on this basis".
After the submission of Venugopal, the bench asked Bhushan, who was appearing for Sinha, Shourie and himself, that he has the right to reply in writing to the affidavit filed by the Centre on Wednesday.