Law

Why Kalikho Pul’s Wife Withdrew Plea in the Supreme Court for Probe Into Corruption Allegations

She will now explore a novel remedy: asking the vice president of India to consult senior judges and act on her husband’s suicide note.

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Dangwimsai Pul withdrew the plea stating that the matter should have been taken up only on the administrative side. Credit(L-R): Hina Fathima, Reuters

New Delhi: Dangwimsai Pul, the first wife of former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul, withdrew the letter she had written to the Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar on February 17 seeking a probe into the corruption allegations he had made in a suicide note last August. Justice Khehar had said that the letter was to be treated as a writ petition and had slated a hearing on the matter by a bench of the apex court on Thursday. The bench comprised Justices A.K. Goel and Uday Lalit.

The writ petition thus stands dismissed.

Speaking to The Wire, Dangwimsai said, “I decided to withdraw the petition because I sought his intervention only on the administrative side [to facilitate an investigation]. However, the letter had been turned into a writ petition. This was not what I wanted.”

Lawyer Dushyant Dave appeared in the court on her behalf to withdraw the petition. Later, speaking to the media, Dave questioned the judicial proceedings, saying that the matter should have been taken up only on the administrative side and said that any adverse judicial order would result in the denial of alternate remedy available to the petitioner.

He also objected to Justice Goel hearing the matter on the ground that he was a colleague of Justice Khehar when he was a judge in the Punjab and Haryana high court and quoted the K. Veerasamy judgment to say that the matter ought to have been heard by five judges, not two.

Dave also said this bench of justices should not hear the matter on the judicial side “due to conflict of interest as the allegations are against the son of the present CJI and other judges and also against the president of India.”

The well-known Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, whom Dangwimsai consulted in the case, told The Wire, “The CJI sent the petition to a bench headed by a judge who is a close friend of his. As per law, the CJI can’t choose on his own who should fill up the bench to hear a case when he has been named in [a matter].”

“As per the K. Veeraswamy case, the CJI should have chosen the next senior-most judge and allowed him decide how to proceed on the case, which didn’t happen in this case.”

Bhushan added that, “Another way of going about it is to forward the matter to the president of India who would consult the senior-most judges and approve of a bench.”

“Since the president has also been named in the 60-page suicide note of Pul, it should then be forwarded to the vice president,” he added.

Dangwimsai later said, “We will petition the office of the vice president very soon.”

Kalikho Pul, who was removed from the chief minister’s post after an order of the apex court in July 2016, committed suicide on August 9. He left behind a 60-page suicide note titled ‘Mere Vichar’ in which he levelled serious charges of corruption and attempted bribery against senior leaders, politicians and of some relatives of top judges of the apex court. Copies of the note were sent to the state and central governments but nothing was heard of it until The Wire published it on February 8 after redacting the names mentioned in it.

The Wire report led Dangwmsai to hold a press meet in Itanagar in which she demanded a CBI probe into the allegations and the resignation of the present chief minister Pema Khandu and his deputy Chowna Mein on moral grounds.

On February 17, she wrote a letter to the CJI seeking directions to register a First Information Report (FIR) on the basis of the allegations made by Pul.

She wrote, “I am sure that you [Justice Khehar] will have the matter placed before the appropriate judges in accordance with the judgment in the Veeraswami case for consideration of my request”.  A copy of the suicide note was attached to the letter.

As per the 1991 K. Veeraswami vs Union of India judgment, the CJI’s permission is mandatory even for the filing of an FIR against a judge of the high court or the Supreme Court who has been accused of corruption under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Dangwimsai’s letter to the CJI added, “The judgment further says that if the allegations are against the Chief Justice, then the permission required would be of other judges, which would obviously mean the next most senior judge available.”

She gave out copies of that letter to the media at a press meet in New Delhi along with copies of Pul’s suicide note without the names being redacted.

According to sources, the CJI passed an administrative order on the night of February 21 treating the letter as a writ petition. The court registry informed Dangwimsai about the CJI’s decision  and that the matter would be heard on February 23. The registry pointed out that by an administrative order, the CJI cannot give a direction for registration of an FIR as it had to be done only through a judicial order. Accordingly, the letter was listed for hearing as a writ petition.