"Clearing" the controversy surrounding Dangwimsai Pul's decision to withdraw her application from the Supreme Court (SC) to investigate the suicide note of her husband, ex-Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul, a foremost legal rights NGO, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) has said, she did this because she felt it was not appropriate for the chief justice of India (CJI) to choose a particular bench for hearing.
CJAR consists of former judges Justice PB Sawant and H Suresh, well-known Magsaysay award winning writer Arundhati Roy, senior advocates Mihir Desai and Prashant Bhushan, and well-known activists associated with people's organizations. Kalikho Pul committed suicide in August last year.
“Aware” that there were “also allegations against the CJI and the judge next in seniority in the note”, says a CJAR statement, Dangwimsai Pul asked CJI “to refer her application to the appropriate judges, which would normally mean those next in seniority.” Yet, the NGO regrets, the matter was transferred to a bench, one of those judges had been a close colleague of CJI.
The statement says, senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appeared on behalf of Dangwimsai Pul in the Supreme Court, objected to the manner in which the matter was listed before the bench comprising Justice UU Lalit and Justice AK Goel. Justice Goel, he said, is known to be a close colleague of Chief Justice Khehar when they were at the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
“Dave sought Justice Goel’s recusal on this ground and argued that justice should appear to be done”, says CJAR, adding, “Dave also informed the court that such a suicide note calls for an extraordinary independent investigation and should not be heard on the judicial side if the credibility of the judiciary as impartial institution has to be preserved. ”
CJAR states, “Normally it should have been sent to the senior-most judge available, who was not named in the suicide note, for an administrative permission.” Alternatively, the application could have been referred to the Vice President of India, “since there are allegations against the President as well, for consulting the judges next in seniority.”
The controversial 60-page suicide note, says CJAR, contains “very serious allegations of corruption” against “senior politicians and judges, including several CJIs”, regretting, “However, the diary was sought to be buried by the BJP government, just as they tried to bury the shocking allegations of corruption contained in the Birla & Sahara diaries. ”
Pointing to the reason why Dangwimsai Pul approached the CJI, CJAR says, “On being told of the Veeraswami judgment of the SC which prohibits the police from investigating judges of the higher judiciary without prior permission of the CJI, she wrote to the CJI seeking such permission”, requesting CJI “to grant permission for the registration of an FIR on the basis of the allegation of corruption contained in the suicide diary”.
Insisting that the investigation of facts contained in the suicide note "must not be in the hands of any agency under the control of the government, but must be done by an SIT appointed by the senior judges of the SC (other than those who are named)”, CJAR says, “Any attempt to bury this matter as has been done in the case of the Birla Sahara diaries will just strengthen public suspicion and will cause immense damage to the credibility of the judiciary. ”