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Rafale review plea: Govt wants it rejected as documents confidential; SC says what about Bofors



Rafale review plea

It was interesting to find the country’s top law officer argue that a plea, seeking review of a judgment on the ground that the government had misled the court, be rejected because the documents to prove this were stolen and violated the Official Secrets Act.

That, incidentally, was the only legal provision cited by Attorney General KK Venugopal who went on to cite national interest, national security, urgency of the need for Rafale fighter aircraft and the undesirability of investigating defence deals.

In the hearing on the review petition started today (Wednesday, March 6), the Attorney General’s contention evoked a sharp response from the Supreme Court, which said that similar circumstances existed in the Bofors scam trial and if the Centre’s claims were to be accepted, should all cases linked with the infamous scam of the 1980s be shut down too.

As the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph started hearing the bunch of petitions seeking review of its December 14 verdict which had ruled out a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal, the Attorney General said that the documents on the basis of which the review has been sought were “inadmissible as evidence” as they were “stolen from the Union defence ministry” and were protected under the Official Secrets Act.

Arguing that the documents published by The Hindu newspaper and another one shared by news agency ANI were not supposed to be in the public domain, Venugopal sought to raise the bogey of national interest and the threat of war to present his case against the review petitions.

In a veiled reference to the recent escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack, the Attorney General said: “Recent incidents have shown how vulnerable we are. When others have superior F16 aircraft, should we also not buy better aircraft?”

It may be recalled that in the aftermath of the Indian Air Force’s strikes at a terror camp in Pakistan’s Balakot, the Pakistan Air Force had responded by an attempted attack on Indian territories in Kashmir using F-16 fighter jets. Shortly after, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had claimed at a public rally that the outcome of the escalation with Pakistan would have been “very different if India had Rafale jets.”

Venugopal proceeded to tell the court that a CBI inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the negotiations with the French government and Dassault Aviation for the Rafale fighter jets will damage the country. He added that given the prevailing circumstances, there was an “urgency to procure Rafale jets” as they are “needed to protect the country against F-16s” and that pilots had “already been sent to Paris for training to operate the jets.”

“If CBI probe is directed now, the damage done to the country will immense,” Venugopal told the court while asserting that the publication of the “secret documents” related to the Rafale deal negotiations by The Hindu had damaged India’s image globally.

As Venugopal began to detail India’s need for Rafale jets to fight against Pakistan’s F-16 fleet, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi intervened to tell him that he must confine his arguments on the maintainability of the review petitions.

As Venugopal began, once again, to enumerate how the documents relied upon in the review petitions were “inadmissible” as they had been “procured through unfair means” in violation of the Official Secrets Act, he was interrupted once again, this time by Justice KM Joseph.

“Issue of national security doesn’t arise when question in review is that plea of investigation hasn’t been considered. Are you going to take shelter under national security when the allegations are of grave crime, corruption,” Justice Joseph asked the Attorney General pointedly.

He added that the legal precedent with regard to admitting “stolen” documents as evidence was settled under the Evidence Act and said further that “if an act of corruption is committed, government cannot take shelter under the Official Secrets Act.”

Venugopal sought to rebut Justice Joseph’s observation, saying: “Your Lordships might have your view on it (admissibility of such documents) but I have a different view.”

He went on to make a rhetoric submission: “Certain issues are outside the purview of judicial review. Do we have to come to the court to justify when we declare war, when we declare peace? Do we have to come and seek permission of the court every time?”

He also sought to know the “source” of the documents that the petitioners have relied upon while filing the review pleas. “Relevancy of the papers can’t be sole consideration (for allowing a review)… they must say whether retired or present officers did it (leaked the documents)… How did the petitioners get privileged documents of defence ministry,” Venugopal said.

The Attonery General’s voluble submissions provoked a pointed query from Chief Justice Gogoi who asked: “If an accused establishes the plea of alibi on the basis of a stolen document, should the court ignore it… Show us the authority that (disclosing the) source is important.”

The Chief Justice then noted that while violating the Official Secrets Act “makes a person liable for criminal punishment for obtaining secret documents”, courts or petitioners can “proceed against the person but will the document become null?”

With Venugopal refusing to step back from his line of argument, Justice Joseph remarked: “There were allegations of corruption in Bofors. Now, will you say the same thing that a criminal court shouldn’t look into any such document in that case? Here we have an open system.”

Venugopal sidestepped Justice Joseph’s query: “Yes, we have an extremely open system here. This is the only country where a court is examining a defence deal as if it is an administrative issue. No other court in any other country will do it.”

Perhaps perturbed by the Attorney General’s defiance, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul too joined the other judges on the bench to question Venugopal. “The documents having come before us, you can’t say that we cannot look into them,” Justice Kaul said.

Venugopal then fell back on his earlier line of dramatic arguments, stressing that the Rafale “purchase is essential for the survival of this nation against enemies.”

This brought an even more pointed rebuke from Justice Kaul who told the Centre’s chief law officer: “if the documents were stolen, the government should put its own house in order. It is one thing to say that we should look at these documents with suspicion. But, to say we can’t even look at those documents may not be a correct submission in law.”

Chief Justice Gogoi too remarked: “If your submission is that petitioners have not come bona fide, then that is different but can you say that the document is completely untouchable… it is a far stretched an argument.”

The Chief Justice even cited an example to the Attorney General, stating: “an accused is having difficulty in proving his innocence. He steals a document and shows it to the judge. The document clearly shows he is innocent. Should a judge ignore the document?”

Venugopal then sought to revive his arguments on the damage that would be caused to the country if the court conceded to the demand of reviewing its December 14 verdict. “Every statement by this Court is used to destabilise either the government or the opposition. Why should the court become a party to such an exercise? This is why I am appealing to this Court to exercise restraint. Defence procurements can’t be judicially examined,” the Attorney General appealed.

As Venugopal reiterated that documents made public by The Hindu and ANI were “stolen”, the bench asked him if the “head of (the concerned) department in the Ministry of Defence can file an affidavit” affirming this stand. The Attorney General then told the court that the affidavit will be filed on Thursday (March 7).

The court then heard brief submissions from the counsel for one of the main petitioners, former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. Sinha’s counsel submitted that Venugopal’s claim that the documents produced as part of the review petition are inadmissible “is not correct” and went on to cite how the apex court had admitted supposedly confidential documents provided by him as evidence in earlier cases filed by him related to the alleged professional misconduct and corruption of former CBI director Ranjit Sinha and in petitions related to the 2G spectrum and coal allocation scams.

The Chief Justice then told Sinha’s counsel: “If we accept the Attorney General’s arguments (on inadmissibility of documents), we reject these documents and hear your review petition minus these documents and if, we reject his submissions, we will then see how these documents are relevant to decide the review petitions.”

The bench then adjourned the proceedings for the day. It has directed the matter to be listed for further hearing on March 14, at 3 PM.

Earlier, as the three-judge bench, which had delivered the December 14 judgment, began hearing the review petitions, counsel for former Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha, the most high profile petitioner in the case, urged the court to rap the Centre for perjury.

Stating that the December 14 verdict did not go into their prayer for a court-monitored investigation into the Rafale deal but looked at prayers made by other petitioners – advocates ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda – for cancellation of the deal, the counsel for Sinha argued that the real question before the court is whether their complaint warranted a probe.

Placing reliance on a set of documents related to the Rafale deal and the negotiations between the Indian and French sides that preceded it but which came in the public domain after the December 14 verdict, Sinha’s counsel said the apex court had relied upon “a large number of serious errors of fact” while dismissing the prayer for a probe into the deal.

“Those facts were presumably supplied to the court by the Centre in sealed cover notes…Critical material facts were suppressed from the court… the government should be hauled up for perjury,” Sinha’s counsel said.

He then proceeded to place reliance on an eight page note, primarily related to matters that have come in the public domain as part of investigative news reports published by The Hindu newspaper over the past two months.

These reports were sourced from information gathered through files purportedly leaked from the Union defence ministry and highlighted the following details: a) contrary to the Centre’s submission before the apex court, the Prime Minister’s Office interfered with and possibly influenced the outcome of the negotiations with the French government on the Rafale deal even though an Indian Negotiation Team (INT) of the Union defence ministry was formed for the specific purpose, b) the Indian government waived the sovereign guarantee clause finalized during earlier negotiations between the (INT) and Dassault Aviation thereby causing a windfall gain for the fighter jet manufacturer at the cost of the Indian exchequer, c) members of the INT had objected to the interference by the PMO in the negotiation process.

Further, the review petitions also place reliance on the fact that while the apex court’s December 14 verdict had given a clean chit to the Rafale deal on grounds that it had been cleared by the Comptroller & Auditor General and that the auditor’s report had been accepted by a Parliamentary panel, the C&AG report on the Rafale deal had not been finalized and presented before Parliament before February 13- i.e. two months after the top court’s verdict.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, however, objected to the mentioning of the leaked documents on grounds that they were part of a file that had been stolen from the Union defence ministry and were, in fact, protected under the Official Secrets Act.

Venugopal said the first article by the senior journalist appeared in The Hindu on February 8. Wednesday’s The Hindu report was aimed at influencing the proceedings and that amounted to contempt of court, he said.

While Venugopal was seeking dismissal of the review petitions and raising objections to petitioner’s arguments based on the articles published in The Hindu, the bench sought to know from the Centre what has it done when it is alleging that the stories are based on stolen material.

The AG also submitted that the documents on the deal relied on by the petitioners were marked secret and classified, and therefore, are in violation of Official Secrets Act.

Sinha’s counsel said critical facts on Rafale were suppressed when the petition for an FIR and investigation were filed.

He said that the top court would not have dismissed the plea for FIR and probe into Rafale deal had there not been suppression of facts.

However, Venugopal said the documents relied upon in the petition were stolen from the Defence Ministry and an investigation into the matter was underway.

India News

After 40 hours, rescue operation continues to save 2.5-year-old girl stuck inside 300 ft deep borewell in Madhya Pradesh

On Tuesday, at around 2:45 PM, when Srishti while playing in the neighbour’s field. fell inside the borewell which was lying open.



MP Girl borewell

On Thursday, after 40 hours, rescue operation continues to pull out the 2.5-year-old girl who fell inside a 300-feet deep borewell in Madhya Pradesh’s Sehore.

A borewell rescue robot team has arrived at the spot to save the girl.

On Tuesday, at around 2:45 PM, when Srishti while playing in the neighbour’s field. fell inside the borewell which was lying open.

The administration was immediately informed after which officials rushed to the spot to undertake the rescue operation, which is in continuation since then.

The incident took place in Mungaoli Village in Sehore, MP.

As per the Sehore District Collector, Srishti was stuck at a depth of 20-feet but slid down further 50-feet as the efforts for her rescue continued. While reports said, she slid further down and is stuck at 110-feet.

The Army, NDRF and SDRF teams have been in force since Tuesday, for pulling Srishti out.

A team of experts from Rajasthan and Delhi have also been called to help out in the operation to save the girl.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who belongs to the same district, has taken stock of the situation and has direceted for Srishti’s safe evacuation.

Srishti is the daughter of Rahul Kushwaha and Rani Kushwaha. Oxygen was sent down the borewell with the help of a pipe on Tuesday. Cameras were also sent inside to monitor the situation.

Ambulance along with a team of doctors are on stand-by at the spot.

Rani said, about 50 m away from the house, their neighbor Nannu Lal had dug a borewell about three months ago but it was a failed attempt and the hole was left unattended.

In a similar incident, 4 days back a 2-year-old girl in Gujarat’s Jamnagar fell inside a 200 feet-deep borewell, who was pulled out after a massive operation of 19 hours but was declared dead.

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Arvind Kejriwal to inaugurate East Delhi campus of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University tomorrow in the latest bout of Delhi Govt, Centre fight

The Aam Aadmi government had made an announcement that Kejriwal would inaugurate the East Delhi Campus of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) on June 8, while Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena’s office has stated that it had already been decided that the LG would do the inauguration.



Arvind Kejriwal to inaugurate East Delhi campus of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University tomorrow in the latest bout of Delhi Govt, Centre fight

The tension between the Aam Aadmi Government and the Centre is increasing day by day. The latest dispute is related to the inauguration of the East Delhi Campus of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi.

The Aam Aadmi government had made an announcement that Kejriwal would inaugurate the East Delhi Campus of the Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) on June 8, while Delhi Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena’s office has stated that it had already been decided that the LG would do the inauguration.

The note from the LG’s office read, CM was invited as the guest of honor and Delhi Education Minister Atishi Marlena was a special guest. The statement further read, the inauguration had been scheduled to happen on May 23 but was postponed to June 8 due to a request from Kejriwal.

AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj responded, saying the LG should inaugurate Police stations and Delhi Development Authority sports complexes, but education and higher education are state subjects.

He further added he could not believe that the officials had told the LG about the inauguration.

He joked that the LG could even tell his officials that he wanted to inaugurate Saurabh Bhardwaj’s office. He also said this was the primary reason why the LG had kept the control of bureaucrats and also why he wants the power to remain with him.

The new campus of GGSIPU was conceptualized in 2013. Its foundation stone was laid on December 14, 2014, by then HRD Minister Smriti Irani. Even after the AAP came to power in February 2015, no major decision had been taken.

As per reports, GGSIPU itself funded the construction of the campus at a cost of Rs 387 crore, of which the Delhi government’s share was 41 crore. This amount was paid in three installments, the last of which was released on June 5.    

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Zomato takes down Kachra ad after flak for being casteist, BoycottZomato trends

A comparison between Kachra (trash) and the outcast character in the film Lagaan, which was released in 2001, was made by Zomato.



Zomato ad campaign

Zomato, the food delivery brand, recently got into trouble after their new Kachra ad campaign which has now sparked controversy across the internet.

The campaign’s tagline, Don’t waste food, Don’t’ be Kachra, was displayed alongside a series of advertisements presenting left-over food in an effort to promote cleanliness and decrease food waste.

The campaign, which was released on June 5 on the occasion of World Environment Day, aimed to increase awareness of the burden that plastic waste has on the environment and to highlight how many kilograms of waste is used to produce even the most basic items. For example, a paperweight requires 3-4 kg of recycled waste, while hand towels require 9-12 kg.

The Zomato advertisement showed how the company chooses to deliver food without using any plastic, therefore protecting the environment.

A comparison between Kachra (trash) and the outcast character in the film Lagaan, which was released in 2001, was made by Zomato. The advertisement also featured the actor, Aditya Lakhiya, who played the character of Kachra in the film Lagaan. Given the larger backdrop of commercial entertainment in India, some users said, Kachra’s character in Lagaan had a contextual meaning.

The actor was presented in a variety of contexts, including as a recycled hand towel, a similar flower pot and paper.

However, the campaign failed to connect with the audience and received criticism for its insensitive approach and was referred to as a casteist idea on various social media platforms.

Users have now flooded the internet with their criticism, expressing their dissatisfaction towards the ad. Twitter is filled with #BoycottZomato.

One user wrote, Zomato’s Kachra advertisement was not an accident, rather, it was a planned and intentional act that may have been approved by the company’s senior management. The user went on to criticise Zomato, labeling it as having casteist ideas. While another said, Zomato’s highly casteist campaign can be attributed to a lack of diversity.


However, the company informed in a Tweet about the advertisement being pulled down after the flak by the users and justifying its campaign wrote, on the occasion of World Environment Day, its intent was to aware the audience about the alternative usage of plastic waste and its recycling in a humorous way but unfortunately it hurt the sentiments of some individuals and community.

To this decision of Zomato taking the campaign back, it again received crticism from the users, while some called it arrogance for not making any apology, while some were satisfied with the timley action by the company.

A user wrote, the usual day casteism was unfortunate and was happy with Zomato’s timely action by removing the advertisement.

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