Rafale rebuff (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 3 : Security
Prelims level : Rafale
Mains level : Highlighting the Rafale Jets controversy
- The Supreme Court’s decision to consider the relevance of the documents
published in the media on the Rafale deal is a firm and necessary rebuff to
the Central government’s attempts to prevent judicial examination of these
papers and to de-legitimise all investigative journalism on the subject.
- The court’s unanimous verdict, rendered in two concurring orders by a
three-judge Bench, means that review petitions filed against earlier orders
declining an investigation into the purchase of Rafale jets will now be
taken up on merits and that the petitioners are free to rely on these
documents, regardless of their provenance.
- A dissenting note by members of the India Negotiating Team, and notes
that disclose unease in the Defence Ministry over parallel negotiations at
the PMO’s instance undermining the official parleys are among them.
- It would have been a travesty had the government succeeded in blocking
judicial scrutiny of these documents, as they disclose significant details
about the decision-making process.
- The government’s desperate attempts to prevent the court from relying on
these papers included a claim of privilege under the Evidence Act, a threat
of invoking the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and an accusation that the
published documents were “stolen” ones.
- It toned down the allegation by saying the original documents had not
been stolen, and what were published were unauthorised photocopies.
- None of these claims impressed the court, which relied on the principle
that how a piece of evidence is obtained is immaterial, as long as it is
relevant to adjudicating an issue.
Citing the reasons
- The decision on the admissibility of the documents has significance
beyond the Rafale issue.
- It revivifies the rights of a free press and underscores the principle
that it is public interest, and not the content of a document alone, that
will decide whether disclosure is needed or not in a given case.
- Referring to the publication of the Rafale documents in The Hindu, Chief
Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that “the right of such publication would seem
to be in consonance with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech”.
- Citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Pentagon Papers, he noted
that neither the OSA nor any other law vests any power in the executive to
stop publication of documents marked ‘secret’ or the placing of such
documents before a court of law which may be called upon to adjudicate a
- It is premature to conclude, based on this development, that the court’s
earlier decision to not order a criminal investigation into the purchase of
36 Rafale jets will be revisited.
- However, it will certainly help provide clarity on several aspects of
the murky deal. Had the government agreed to a parliamentary probe early on,
it would not be suffering the sort of setback it has now faced in the
Q.1) During the colonial era, the “India League” was a Britainbased
organization whose main aim was to
a) Eradicate untouchability from India
b) Increase the representation of Indian MPs in British Parliament
c) Work for the welfare of Indian immigrants in Britain
d) Achieve full independence and self-government for India
Q.1) Supreme Court’s decision exposes attempts to de-legitimise
investigative journalism. Comment.