In yet another controversial development in the Rs 59,000 crore
This was a reference to the exclusive report by The Hindu, which published on February 8 an internal note from a time when negotiations were in full swing. According to this note, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) strongly objected to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French side.
How did it change the course of the hearing?
The note dated November 2015 was addressed to
The government’s submissions to the Supreme Court last year, however, had no mention of the PMO’s role in these negotiations, which consequently opened a new can of worms and shook the foundation on which the apex court had given the centre a clean chit last December.
The Hindu report last month moved Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, one of the most vocal critics of the government’s alleged “criminal misconduct”, to ask, “If Supreme Court had this paperwork, do you think that the Supreme Court would have given the
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a batch of petitions seeking a review of its earlier verdict.
This week, Attorney General K K Venugopal on behalf of the
On the basis of this, he sought the dismissal of the review petitions and raised objections to petitioner Prashant Bhushan’s arguments that were based on the articles published in The Hindu.
Following this line of argument, the Opposition doubled down on its attack on the Centre, questioning its capability to defend the country, when it can’t hold on to crucial
Others including CPI (M) general
Can stolen documents be relied upon as admissible proof?
Former Additional Solicitor General and senior advocate Indira Jaising agreed with the oral observation made by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi that even stolen evidence could be looked into, depending upon its relevance.
During the hearing, the CJI had observed, “We can understand you saying that petitioners came with unclean hands. That they got the documents through doubtful sources. But it is another thing to say that the court cannot consider these documents at all. That they are untouchable”.
That said, The Hindu is almost certainly in the clear with reference to the charges of violating the Official Secrets Act.
Senior advocate and constitutional expert Dushyant Dave
How The Hindu responded
Exonerating his reportage and his paper’s editorial decision, The Hindu Publishing Group Chairman N Ram said, “What we have done is completely protected under article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian constitution – freedom of speech and expression – and also under the relevant sections of the Right to Information Act, specifically, its section 8 (1) (i) and section 8 (2), which clearly protects this.”
Ram said on Wednesday that the documents were published in public interest because details were withheld or covered
“You may call it stolen documents…we are not concerned. We got it from confidential sources and we are committed to protecting these sources. Nobody is going to get any information from us on these sources. But the documents speak for themselves and the stories speak for themselves,” the veteran journalist told PTI.
″… It is the duty of the press – through investigative journalism – to bring out relevant information or issues of great importance for the public interest,” he added.
Ram has repeatedly attacked the most salient discrepancies in Modi’s final deal with the French government — the increase in Rafale’s price, how the government bypassed mandated procedures, that fact that the French took advantage of parallel parleys by the PMO that weakened Indian team’s position, why the government did not want an escrow account, why the deal was not on better terms than the UPA-era offer.
Read more: Explainer: A-Z of Rafale controversy
However, he pointed out that The Hindu had exercised due diligence and has held back seminal information, for example, the 13 India Specific Enhancements which is believed to have hiked the priced of each jet by almost Rs 1000 crore. Ram felt that “there was no need to publish
Here’s why it matters
The first direct altercation between the Centre and a reputed media
The revival of this issue before the upcoming general elections stands to seriously dent BJP’s prospects of staging a return.
Rashtriya Janata Dal Rajya Sabha member Manoj Jha has called the BJP-led NDA alliance “the weakest government that can’t keep the country safe”. “This tells you very clearly why the PM and his team were blocking
CPI leader D. Raja told The Hindu that instead of shooting the messenger the government should respond to the message. “It is shameful that the Attorney General is telling the apex court that the files have been stolen. Is the
The Editors Guild of India also condemned the AG’s remarks, and the Centre’s reprehensible attempt to arm-twist the media with the Official Secrets Act. Denouncing threats against reporters, the guild urged the government to refrain from any action that might undermine freedom of the press.
This sort of a blame game also calls for the immediate abolishment of the Official Secrets Act, a piece of colonial legislation, which is anti-democratic and has rarely been used against publications in independent India, especially to stall investigative efforts by the media.
The Hindu, meanwhile, plans to continue its ongoing investigation and publish honest scathing pieces on the deal, as it unfolds inside and outside court.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius
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