Editorial : Rafale rebuff

Supreme Court’s decision exposes attempts to de-legitimise investigative journalism
The Supreme Court’s decision to consider(विचार करने) the relevance(प्रस्तुतता/प्रासंगिकता) of the documents published in the media on the Rafale deal is a firm and necessary rebuff to the Central government’s attempts(प्रयास) to prevent(रोकें) judicial examination of these papers and to de-legitimise(वैध करना/न्याय्य करना) all investigative journalism on the subject.
The court’s unanimous(सर्वसम्मति ) verdict(फैसला), rendered(प्रस्तुत करना/लौटाना) in two concurring(अवहेलना) orders by a three-judge Bench, means that review(समीक्षा) petitions(याचिकाओं ) filed against(खिलाफ ) earlier orders declining(गिरावट) an investigation(जांच ) into the purchase(खरीद) of Rafale jets will now be taken up on merits and that the petitioners(याचिकाकर्ताओं/प्रार्थक) are free to rely on these documents, regardless(बेपरवाह/लापरवाह) of their provenance(उत्पत्ति/मूल-स्रोत). These documents include those published by The Hindu. A dissenting(असहमति/विरोध करना) note by members of the India Negotiating Team, and notes that disclose(खुलासा ) unease in the Defence Ministry over parallel(समानांतर ) negotiations at the PMO’s instance undermining(दुर्बल करना/नष्ट करना) the official parleys are among them. It would have been a travesty(उपहासात्मक रचना) had the government succeeded in blocking judicial scrutiny(जांच) of these documents, as they disclose significant(महत्वपूर्ण ) details about the decision-making process. The government’sdesperate(हताश/मायूस) attempts(प्रयास) to prevent(रोकने ) the court from relying on these papers included a claim(दावा/मांग)of privilege(विशेषाधिकार /सुविधा) under the Evidence(साक्ष्य ) Act, a threat(खतरा) of invoking(विनती करना/आह्वान करना) the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and an accusation(आरोप/अभियोग) that the published documents were “stolen(चोरी )” ones. Later, it toned down the allegation by saying the original documents had not been stolen, and what were published were unauthorised(अनधिकृत/मना हुआ) photocopies. None of these claims impressed the court, which relied on the principle that how a piece of evidence is obtained is immaterial(सारहीन/अमूर्त) , as long as it is relevant to adjudicating(निर्णयन) an issue.
The decision(निर्णय) on the admissibility(प्रवेश ) of the documents has significance beyond the Rafale issue: it revivifies(पूर्वरूप में लाना) the rights of a free press and underscores the principle that it is public interest, and not the content of a document alone, that will decide whether disclosure(खुलासा) is needed or not in a given case. Referring to the publication(प्रकाशन/घोषणा) of the Rafale documents in The Hindu, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that “the right of such publication would seem to be in consonance(सहमति) with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech”. Citing the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Pentagon Papers, he noted that neither the OSA nor any other law vests any power in the executive(कार्यकारी) to stop publication of documents marked ‘secret’ or the placing of such documents before a court of law which may be called upon to adjudicate a legal issue(कानूनी मुद्दे ). It is premature to conclude, based on this development, that the court’s earlier decision to not order a criminal(आपराधिक ) investigation(जांच) into the purchase of 36 Rafale jets will be revisited(दोबारा/फिर से आना). However, it will certainly(निश्चित रूप से/निस्संदेह) help provide(प्रदान करें) clarity on severalaspects(पहलू) of the murky(मज़ाक ) deal. Had the government agreed to a parliamentary probe early on, it would not be suffering the sort of setback it has now faced in the Supreme Court

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