SC to deliver Sabarimala, Rafale verdicts on Thursday

New Delhi


The Supreme Court on Thursday will pronounce the judgements on the review petitions filed on the issue of entry of women of all age groups into the Sabarimala temple and the Rafale fighter jet deal where the top court will review its December 2018 ruling of not ordering a CBI probe into the deal.

In the case of Sabarimala, a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in February concluded the arguments and reserved the judgement on the batch of petitions seeking review of the apex court verdict in 2018, which allowed the entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple.

It is one of the most important judgements, which is expected to be pronounced before the Chief Justice's term ends this month.

The bench had heard submissions on behalf of all parties, including the Kerala government, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), Nair Service Society and others. The court had then said it would pronounce its order on whether to review the judgment or not.

As many as 64 petitions, which include review pleas and transfer pleas, have been filed in the apex court challenging its decision on the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple. On the last day of hearing, in what appeared to unprecedented, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which handles management of Sabarimala temple in Kerala, reversed its stand in the top court by expressing its support to the 2018 court verdict, which had allowed women of all age groups to enter the shrine. The board submitted in the court that discrimination on the grounds of biological attributes was not correct.

In the Rafale deal, the Centre had told the apex court that the deal is linked to the question of national security. Attorney General, K.K. Venugopal told a bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi: "We have signed an IGA...which we are obliged to follow...Rafale is not for ornamentation. It is essential for protection of each and everyone of us....nowhere in the world such matters go before the court."

The A-G also told the court that in accordance with Article 10 of the IGA, the pricing in the deal cannot be disclosed. "....this matter, the secrecy clause of the inter-governmental agreement between India and France, pertains to defence deals and not to the award of contract for construction of flyover or dams....", he said insisting on the dismissal of review petitions.

Contesting the Rafale deal, the petitioners had filed a rejoinder stating that the December 14, 2018 verdict should be subjected to review as it was based on "multiple falsehoods and suppression of material and relevant information".

The affidavit said, "It is clear that the government misled the court on various counts in the notes that were submitted in a sealed cover. The government has also suppressed material and relevant information from the court and obtained the impugned judgement on the basis of fraud played upon the court by the government."

The top court had dismissed the plea filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan, who sought investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal.

The court will also pronounce the judgement on former Congress president Rahul Gandhi's comments referring to the apex court in a political statement in the run upto the general election in May this year.

Gandhi had told the Supreme Court to close the criminal proceedings against him, as he has already tendered apology for linking the top court to a political slogan - "Chowkidar Chor Hain" - of his party.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Gogoi reserved the order on the contempt petition filed by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi counsel for Lekhi argued that Gandhi should make an apology to the public for wrongfully attributing the top court in a political speech.

"Rahul Gandhi led public astray by saying Supreme Court said 'Chowkidar chor hai'. Hence, the court should pass an order asking Rahul Gandhi to apologise," contended Rohatgi before the court.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Gandhi said he had expressed regret even before court had issued notice.

"When court did not accept that regret is equivalent to apology, he filed an affidavit expressing apology, therefore, the case should be closed," argued Singhvi before the court.

Rohatgi replied that the apology tendered by Gandhi should not be accepted, and necessary action should be taken against him as per law.IANS