India’s top court gives govt 10 days to reveal details of military jet deal

The purchase of 36 Rafale planes has become a major political controversy in India. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2018
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India’s top court gives govt 10 days to reveal details of military jet deal

  • The court said that the government should share the details of an $8.7-billion military jet deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to former ministers and an activist who say the information should be in the public domain

NEW DELHI: India’s top court on Wednesday gave the government 10 days to disclose the details of an $8.7-billion military jet deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to former ministers and an activist who say the information should be in the public domain.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale planes has become a major political controversy because of the escalating price and a decision to pick billionaire Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense as a domestic partner.
Reliance, which has no aeronautical expertise, was chosen instead of the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics, which has a long history of making planes.
The Supreme Court ruled that if the material was strategic in nature or involved national security, the government might choose not to reveal it to the petitioners, but will instead have to furnish it to the court in a sealed package.
“We ask the center to give details of the pricing and strategic details of Rafale fighter aircraft in sealed cover in 10 days,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, referring to the government.
The ruling came in a hearing on petitions including a joint plea by former government ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan, on the jet deal.
“There should be a court-monitored Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the Rafale deals,” Bhushan told the panel of three judges during arguments.
The court’s order was a “very, very substantial step forward,” another petitioner, Arun Shourie, told television channel NDTV after the order.
“Confidentiality does not relate to price, only technical specifications,” he added. “It will be subject to challenge. It will be difficult to say pricing is confidential.”
The Official Secrets Act covers most of the details regarding the Rafale jets, including pricing, and it would not be possible for the government to share them with anyone, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the government, told the court.
The panel said that if the government felt the pricing of the Rafale jet could not be shared with the court, even in a sealed cover, it should say so in an affidavit.
The Supreme Court also asked the government to give copies of the decision-making process to the petitioners.


Women cleared of defamation in French sexual misconduct case

In this Sept. 21, 2014 file photo, Denis Baupin, a prominent Green Party member and former Paris city official, takes part in a climate change demonstration in Paris. (AP)
Updated 20 April 2019
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Women cleared of defamation in French sexual misconduct case

  • The court considered that the women and journalists acted in good faith, which is a defense for defamation under French law

PARIS: A Paris court has dismissed a defamation case against six women who accused a former French lawmaker of sexual misconduct and the journalists who reported the allegations.
The court on Friday ordered Denis Baupin to pay 1,000 euros ($1,120) in damages to each of the 12 people he sued.
In May 2016, investigative website Mediapart and radio station France Inter published and broadcast accounts from 14 women who alleged Baupin had groped, sexted or otherwise harassed them.
The prominent Green Party member resigned as vice president of the lower House of Parliament but denied wrongdoing and launched a defamation lawsuit against the six women who were identified in the reports, some witnesses and journalists.
The case had been under particular scrutiny in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Women rights activists have seen it as a test of French women’s ability to speak out when they think powerful men have sexually harassed or abused them — and how journalists can report it.
The court considered that the women and journalists acted in good faith, which is a defense for defamation under French law.
In addition, it considered France Inter and Mediapart respected their additional obligations: the legitimacy of journalists’ goals in producing a story, demonstrating an absence of personal animosity, prudence and balance, and the quality of the investigation.
Most of the women who spoke about Baupin’s alleged behavior from 1998 to 2013 were fellow Green Party members, and outrage greeted their descriptions.
Four filed criminal complaints for sexual harassment at the time. A nine-month judicial investigation ended without charges. Prosecutors said the three-year statute of limitations had expired, but released a statement saying the women’s “measured, constant statements” and witness corroboration created a set of facts to support allegations of actions that “may for some of them be classified as criminal.”
The cleared women greeted the ruling with tears of joy and relief.
Lawyer Claire Moleon, a lawyer for one of them, told The Associated Press that “this is a great victory.”
“This is a very strong signal given by justice. It’s putting an end to a move that we were noticing to use defamation lawsuits to put more pressure on the victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse,” she said.
Moleon stressed that Baupin’s order to pay damages to the people he sent on trial shows that “sanctions apply” to such cases.
During the February trial, women had described, often with lots of emotion, their alleged harassment through text messages and inappropriate comments, and in some cases, alleged sexual assault attempts.
Some former officials of France’s Green Party also testified in court, saying they should have acted earlier on reports of sexual misconduct. They stressed that the #MeToo movement has raised their awareness.
Baupin’s lawyer Emmanuel Pierrat, had argued his client did nothing illegal and had filed a defamation lawsuit to “fully clear his name.”
Baupin had decided not to attend the trial.