The Hindu ruffles feathers with Rafale reporting
The reporting by The Hindu on the procurement of Rafale fighter jets continues to create ripples. This time, the central government has told the Supreme Court that the documents used were 'stolen'.
This created heated exchanges between the lawyers, the attorney general of India and the judges. The AG, KK Venugopal, urged that the court could not order a CBI probe based on stolen documents urging that the deal in question was a defence procurement that was classified 'secret' and therefore it contents were privileged.
Legal news website, Livelaw.in reports Justice K.M. Joseph response, "
"The material may be privileged in terms of section 123 of the Evidence Act but even stolen evidence can be looked into if it is relevant. The source does not matter under the Evidence Act. You can't shut out evidence because it was illegally procured. That is the law in the USA, not here.
The Chief Justice of India, Justice Ranjan Gogoi also responded to the AG's arguments, saying, "
"Don't forget we dismissed it (the original petitions)! We can understand that argument! They have not come bonafide! One coming to the court must be bonafide. The document is of a doubtful character, the source, how they obtained it, placing it in the public domain and making it part of the petition- all this is not bonafide. And what is not bonafide must not be entertained. But as for the law to state that any such document is untouchable would be laying down the law much higher than necessary."
The AG told the top court that it was likely to prosecute.
"I have an objection! These documents were stolen from the Defence Ministry by some former employee and the investigation is ongoing. These documents are marked secret and were published by two newspapers...this is an offence under the official secrets act. We would be launching prosecution", the AG jumped to his feet as Mr. Bhushan sought to indicate the note as published in the Hindu.
The AG also reportedly told the court that investigative reportage during a sensitive case amounted to contempt of court. In another case, the government has asked the Supreme Court to frame 'sub-judice' rules to prevent such reporting.