A delegation of eminent lawyers and activists, including Prashant Bhushan, Harsh Mander, Yogendra Yadav, Anjali Bhardwaj and others, accompanied Mrs. Dangwimsai Pul (wife of late Mr. Kalikho Pul) to hand deliver Mrs Pul’s letter to Vice President of India Hamid Ansari at his official residence on February 28. The letter sought an independent enquiry by a Special Investigation Team, to probe the allegations contained in the former CM’s suicide diary. Text:
You must be aware that my husband Late Kalikho Pul who was the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh from 19th February to 13th July 2016 committed suicide on 9th August 2016. At the time of discovery of his body hanging from a ceiling fan in the official CM’s bungalow, 10 copies of a 60-page suicide note (each copy signed in original on every page by him) and dated 8th August 2016 was found. This note titled “Mere Vichaar” briefly details his life history and thereafter shows his anguish about the corrupt state of affairs in politics and in the judiciary in the country. He details several allegations of corruption against politicians and judges from his personal knowledge. In particular, the note contains allegations of corruption against the sitting Chief Justice of India and the next Judge in superiority in the Supreme Court and also against the present President of India.
The Inquest Report in Case No. 14 of 2016 made under Section 174 of CrPC by Itanagar Police Station has inter-alia acknowledged that the Additional District Magistrate had seized during examination of place of occurrence of suicide, inter-alia, “Note containing page 1-60 in four (4) sets signed by late Kalikho Pul with caption in Hindi ‘मेरे विचार’.” The said Report concludes that, “Investigation reveals that on 09/08/2016 at between 0500 hrs to 0900 hrs Lt. Kalikho Pul committed suicide by hanging on the ceiling fan at Pranayama room of HCM Bungalow.” The following observations are made during the investigation process:
- He was under depression after his removal from the CM post.
- His act of writing his biography is also pointing towards his intention…” (Copy enclosed)
Given the gravity of the allegations contained in the note and the fact that many of them are from his personal knowledge and that a suicide note is treated like a dying declaration, this matter needs to be seriously investigated by a credible investigation team. However, since it also involves the Chief Justice and another sitting Judge of the Supreme Court, to protect the independence of the judiciary, it should not be investigated by any investigative body controlled by the Government.
It was to protect the independence of the judiciary that the Supreme Court in Veeraswami’s case said that any allegations against the sitting judges of the higher judiciary can only be investigated by an investigating authority after obtaining the prior permission of the Chief Justice of India. The operative part of the said judgment is reproduced below:
“60…….We therefore, direct that no criminal case shall be registered under Section 154, Cr. P. C. against Judge of the High Court, Chief Justice of High Court or Judge of the Supreme Court unless the Chief Justice of India is consulted in the matter. Due regard must be given by the Government to the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice. If the Chief Justice is of opinion that it is not a fit case for proceeding under the Act, the case shall not be registered. If the Chief Justice of India himself is the person against whom the allegations of criminal misconduct are received the Government shall consult any other Judge or Judges of the Supreme Court. There shall be similar consultation at the stage of examining the question of granting sanction for prosecution and it shall be necessary and appropriate that the question of sanction be guided by and in accordance with the advice of the Chief Justice of India. Accordingly, the directions shall go to the Government.”
The judgment says that in case there are allegations against the Chief Justice, the President will consult other judges. This, in terms of the spirit of the judgment, would mean the judge/judges next in seniority.
Since in this case the allegations are also against the sitting Chief Justice and the sitting President of India, I am therefore addressing this request to you to exercise the authority which normally the President would have exercised in terms of the Veeraswami’s judgment which also held:
“12….The President, therefore, being the authority competent to appoint and to remove a Judge, of course in accordance with the procedure envisaged in Article 124, clauses (4) and (5) of the Constitution, may be deemed to be the authority to grant sanction for prosecution of a Judge under the provisions of Section 6(1)(c) in respect of the offences provided in section 5(1)(e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947. In order to adequately protect a Judge from frivolous prosecution and unnecessary harassment the President will consult the Chief Justice of India who will consider all the materials placed before him and tender his advice to the President for giving sanction to launch prosecution or for filing FIR against the Judge concerned after being satisfied in the matter. The President shall act in accordance with advice given by the Chief Justice of India If the Chief Justice of India. If the chief Justices of opinion that it is not a fit case for grant of sanction for prosecution of the Judge concerned the President shall not accord sanction to prosecute the Judge; This will save the Judge concerned from unnecessary harassment as well as from frivolous prosecution against him as suggested by my learned brother Shetty, J. in his judgment. Similarly, in the case of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court the President shall consult such of the Judges of the Supreme Court as he may deem fit and proper and the President shall act in accordance with the advice given to him by the Judge or Judges of the Supreme Court.”
“45…In this view, the President can be considered as the authority to grant sanction for prosecution of a Judge since the order of the President for the removal of a Judge is mandatory.”
“54. The emphasis on this point should not appear superfluous. Prof. Jackson says “Misbehaviour by a Judge, whether it takes place on the bench or off the bench, undermines public confidence in the administration of justice, and also damages public respect for the law of the land; if nothing is seen to be done about it, the damage goes unrepaired. This must be so when the judge commits a serious criminal offence and remains in office”. (Jackson’s Machinery of Justice by J.R. Spencer, 8th edn. pp. 369-70).”
“55. …The proved ‘misbehaviour’ which is the basis for removal of a Judge under clause (4) of Article 124 of the Constitution may also in certain cases involve an offence of criminal misconduct under Section 5(1) of the Act. But that is no ground for withholding criminal prosecution till the Judge is removed by Parliament as suggested by counsel for the appellant. One is the power of Parliament and the other is the jurisdiction of a criminal court. Both are mutually exclusive.”
“56. …. But we know of no law providing protection for Judges from criminal prosecution. Article 361(2) confers immunity from criminal prosecution only to the President and Governors of States and to no others. Even that immunity has been limited during their term of office. The Judges are liable to be dealt with just the same way as any other person in respect of criminal offence. It is only in taking of bribes or with regard to the offence of corruption the sanction for criminal prosecution is required.”
I am, therefore, requesting you to consult other judges in terms of Veeraswami’s judgment and permit filing of an FIR against the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India and Hon’ble Justice Dipak Misra. If these allegations are not credibly investigated, a serious cloud of suspicion will continue to remain over the politicians and judges whose names are mentioned in the suicide note. This would be most unfortunate for our democracy as well as for the judiciary. A credible investigation in this matter can only be done by an SIT constituted by 3/5 judges next in seniority to the judges named in the note.
I, therefore, request you to consult those judges and also request them to name an appropriate SIT which can credibly investigate these allegations.