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24 Feb 2017

Tactical shift, high place twist - Ex-CM's wife recallsplea for FIR on judges

Kalikho Pul
R. Balaji, TT, New Delhi, Feb. 23: The counsel for the wife of Kalikho Pul, the former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister who committed suicide, today withdrew her plea for an FIR on a note that names certain current and past Supreme Court judges after voicing his objections to the legal modalities.
The Supreme Court's order allowing the withdrawal of the plea recorded two key factors associated with the purported suicide note of the former chief minister.
One, among those against whom allegations have been levelled is the President of India.
Two, the matter was considered to be of public importance.
The reference to the President was initially made in the court by Dushyant Dave, the counsel for Pul's wife Dangwimsai Pul, and eventually reproduced by the court in its order.
"We wish to withdraw the case and explore alternative remedy," Dave told the apex court bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit.
The counsel then added: "We would like to move the President... otherwise the Vice-President, because there are allegations against the President of India also."
The purported suicide note of Pul mentions a Calcutta address and makes a payoff claim dating back to a time when Pranab Mukherjee was not the President. Attempts by this newspaper to obtain a response from the President's office this evening were futile.
When Dangwimsai had held a media conference in the capital last week, she had skirted naming names and asked reporters to refer to the copies of the purported 60-page suicide note.
Referring to the counsel's hint at his future course of action, legal sources said the Vice-President did not have any special powers to order an FIR against judges. But the attempt may help keep the issue alive in the public domain, they said.
Pul, 47, was found dead at his home on August 9 last year, four weeks after the Supreme Court quashed a governor's order that had resulted in President's rule which subsequently helped Pul to become chief minister. The apex court order ensured the exit of the Pul government.
The purported suicide note makes several allegations including one about relatives of two judges seeking a Rs 86-crore bribe from him to ensure that President's rule would be upheld.
Dangwimsai had also written to the Chief Justice of India seeking an FIR in the case. Today, Dave objected to the letter being listed for judicial hearing instead of being dealt with administratively.
Dave said the family had not wanted to deal judicially with the case. It had only sought an administrative order for the registration of an FIR, as mandated by a constitution bench in 1991.
That bench had ruled that FIRs against judges for alleged corruption can only be lodged with the Chief Justice's permission. If the allegations are against the Chief Justice, permission has to be obtained from the next senior-most judge.
"We did not file any petition. We had filed the plea on the administrative side and not the judicial side. If your lordships insist on hearing it, we will not participate and wish to withdraw," Dave said.
He said there were a lot of allegations against judges and that the court's reputation would be hurt if the matter was dealt with judicially.
"Another objection is, your lordships shall not hear the case. There are so many judges. Why court No. 13? There are so many courts: 3, 4, 5...."
The court numbers are assigned according to seniority.
Dave said a bench that included Justice Goel should not hear the matter as the judge had been a colleague of the Chief Justice of India during their former stints in Punjab and Haryana High Court.
In its order, uploaded later, the court said: "This petition has been listed in pursuance of the order of the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India. In view of the fact that there are allegations in the annexure to the petition against (a) number of political persons and even the President of India, the matter was considered to be of public importance."
It referred to Dave's objections and said: "The petition is, accordingly, dismissed as withdrawn."

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