New Delhi, March 14: The Supreme Court on Thursday concluded the hearing of arguments on whether the leaked documents - forming the basis of petitions seeking a review into the top court's December-verdict which ruled out a probe into the Rafale deal - fall under the privilege of the Centre. The apex court has reserved the verdict, which will be pronounced on a later date.
In his final set of arguments before the Chief Justice of India-led bench, Attorney General KK Venugopal reiterated that releasing the leaked documents in public domain has "jeopardised national security", as India's adversaries have got an insight into the nation's aerial war capacity.
AG Venugopal told the bench that it cannot take cognizance of leaked documents as per Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act. Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, whose NGO is one of the petitioners, contested the claim saying that the documents which have already been published does not come under the purview of Evidence Act.
Justice KM Joseph, who is also part of the bench, quizzed the Attorney General on the implications on RTI Act if the leaked documents will be considered by the court as part of government's privilege.
Justice KM Joseph on RTI:
#Rafale: RTI Act of 2005 intended to bring a revolution, let us not go back, Justice KM Joseph stresses on RTI jurisprudence and its effect on disclosure of information which used to be withheld earlier on the grounds of security of State.#SupremeCourt
— Bar & Bench (@barandbench) March 14, 2019
Bhushan further attempted to outweigh the AG's arguments by claiming that some of the documents in question "were already released by the government to friendly media".
The lawyer-activist asked the CJI Ranjan Gogoi-led bench to consider the public interest of publishing these documents, rather than maintaining their secrecy under the pretext of national security.
Citing the SP Gupta judgement, Bhushan said, "It laid down that only test to be applied is test of public interest; That is whether public interest would outweigh national security if such documents are disclosed."