Call to probe note with big names
New Delhi, Feb. 17: A forum of jurists today sought a probe by a special investigation team, set up by judges, into an explosive suicide note attributed to former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul.
Pul's first wife Dangwimsai Pul today released the document in New Delhi and accused the BJP government in the state of trying to cover up the suicide note.
The note levels grave allegations against former and serving Supreme Court judges and a person holding high office. One of the charges is that relatives of two judges had sought bribes totalling Rs 86 crore from Pul in exchange for ensuring that President's rule in Arunachal would not be declared illegal.
On July 13 last year, the Supreme Court did quash the imposition of President's rule, which restored the Congress government and ousted Pul, who had become chief minister in February last year with the support of BJP legislators after he left the Congress.
On August 9, the body of Pul, 47, was found in his official bungalow, which he was preparing to vacate.
Since then, Arunachal politics has witnessed some head-spinning somersaults. Pema Khandu, the Congress leader who succeeded Pul as chief minister, joined a party with which Pul was associated. Khandu then moved to the BJP, pitch-forking the party to power in the state. Khandu continues to be in power.
The 60-page Hindi note attributed to Pul is dated August 8, the day before his body was found, and titled " Mere Vichaar (My Thoughts)". Hindi, along with English, is widely used in Arunachal. Two copies of the declaration were apparently found next to Pul's body.
Asked by this newspaper, a senior judge named in the note said: "Such allegations are bound to be there in the Bar. They are baseless."
The Committee for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), a forum of lawyers and jurists, said in a statement today: "The contents of the note do raise serious questions about corruption in the judiciary and judicial accountability and independence. It is surprising that despite the strong recommendation of the former governor of Arunachal, the government did not take steps to have the matter investigated by an impartial body.
"In our view, it would not be appropriate for such a sensitive matter to be investigated by an investigative agency under the control of the government. We, therefore, feel that this needs to be investigated by a(n) SIT set up by a committee/bench of five senior-most judges who are not mentioned in the suicide note."
The members of the forum include former Supreme Court judge Justice P.B. Sawant, former Bombay High Court judge Justice H. Suresh, former law minister Shanti Bhushan and advocate Prashant Bhushan. The forum had earlier thwarted the elevation of then Karnataka Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran over allegations of corruption, culminating in his resignation before Parliament could impeach him.
"They contain very serious allegations of corruption especially in the highest judiciary of India.... Though it is not necessary that all the allegations contained in the note, even those which are made from his personal knowledge, are factually correct, yet a suicide note is treated like a dying declaration and needs to be taken very seriously," the statement added.
"...The allegations contained in the note are indeed very serious and merit an in-depth investigation, so that the rumours and speculations which are swirling around are finally put to rest."
The statement was issued after Pul's wife Dangwimsai submitted a letter to the Chief Justice of India, seeking his intervention in ensuring that an FIR was lodged in the case.
"The investigation by the state government established his death was because of depression and closed the case without taking into account the cause for his depression. This note explains why he was depressed," she told a media conference in New Delhi.
Asked about the identity of the judges and the politicians, Dangwimsai and her associates repeatedly pointed to the document that had been circulated. They said all the information was there.
When reporters asked Dangwimsai whether any additional information was available to back up the allegations, she said: "This is a man's dying declaration. One speaks the truth at a time like that."
She and her associates said that but for Pul, there would have been no BJP government in Arunachal Pradesh. "We want justice from the Narendra Modi government."
Dangwimsai added that she and members of her family had been receiving threats from the state government. "They did not want me to have a press conference in Itanagar. They did not want me to talk about this document," she said in New Delhi.
Neither chief minister Khandu nor his government had issued any response till this evening.