Author: Bharat Kaushik, Student at Manipal University, Jaipur
The purchase of Rafale Fighter aircrafts from France (“the Deal”) called great controversy involving allegations against the Indian government of indulging into corrupt practices involving industrialist Anil Ambani. A bunch of petitions were filed in this regard in order to terminate the deal in light of these allegations. At the threshold of announcement of the deal, a criminal writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the transaction on grounds of corrupt practices, which was dismissed by the apex court back in October, 2018. In the event of a landmark development in the case, 3 documents were released by the Hindu and the Wire in February 2019 which included an INT (Indian Negotiating Team) charged written note negotiating the Deal and some “secret” marked documents under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 from the Defense Ministry.
A petition was filed yet again in the Supreme Court for impropriety in the transaction underneath by the government by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan primarily relying on the documents so released. The Court allowed the petition, declared it maintainable in 2019 and thereafter the hearings commenced and the case was finally closed in November 2019. This case becomes pertinent as it brings to light a plethora of issues which includes the attitude of the judiciary while dealing with the current day executive, a landmark instance of the Executive being compelled to provide evidence against itself, and the various horizons of right to information related to the executive. In light of such instances, this article attempts to critically analyse the key issues raised in the case relating to the privileges of the State under the Evidence Act and weigh it against the diametrically opposite standpoint of right to information. This paper aims to look beyond the case of Yashwant Sinha and implore upon the larger issues relating to claim of privileges arising with the inception of right to information.