Supreme Court hints at considering Rafale Papers under RTI law

The Supreme Court of India on Thursday said that the Right To Information Act (RTI) superseeds all concept of confidentiality of documents as the government requested the court to dismiss probe into Rafale deal on grounds of national security.

The Government’s lawyer Attorney General KK Venugopal argued that the petitioners got the classified files illegally, however Justice KM Joseph and Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi pointed out that the RTI Act may apply even to sensitive information.

The Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “According to you, these documents affect national security and court should not interfere… we have to consider it under the RTI act.”

The court reserved its order whether it should consider documents published by newspaper ‘The Hindu’ as the government says that the documents were stolen from the ministry of defence.

Mr. Venugopal told the top court that no one can publish documents which relate to national security as the security of the state supersedes everything, he referred to section 123 of the Evidence Act and provisions of RTI Act to back his claim.

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners seeking review said that the documents published are already in public domain. Bhushan added that the RTI Act says public interest outweighs other things and no privilege can be claimed except for documents pertaining to intelligence agencies.

Mr. Bhushan countered Venugopal’s charge of the method by which the documents were procured, saying, “If a document is relevant in deciding a fact, it is irrelevant how it was obtained.”

Former Union minister Arun Shourie, who is one of the review petitioners was thankful to the Centre and the Attorney General for saying in their affidavit that these are photocopies, proving the genuineness of these documents.