While police investigate the unnatural death of Cafe Coffee Day founder VG Siddhartha, allegedly caused by harassment by tax officials and investors, a petition filed before the Supreme Court in 2016 requesting an investigation into the suicide of bureaucrat BK Bansal and three members of his family has dropped entirely off the radar.
Following a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by retired bureaucrat EAS Sarma, the apex court had served notice to the Centre and the Central Bureau of Investigation on 21 November 2016. While the CBI responded in February 2017, the Centre not only failed to attend any of the three procedural hearings before the Registrar of the Supreme Court, it also failed to comply with a direction from then-Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in August 2018 to submit a response regarding the case within four weeks.
A year on from that last direction, no hearing has taken place in the case before the judges or the Registrar, and no investigation has been launched into the disturbing deaths.
The Death of a Family
“I am very sad after the suicide/murder of my wife and daughter by the CBI and have lost the desire to live anymore,” these were the words purportedly written by former Director General of Corporate Affairs BK Bansal in his suicide note dated 26 September 2016.
The senior bureaucrat and his son were found hanging from their East Delhi apartment, barely two months after his wife and daughter had taken their own lives in an identical manner, citing “social stigma” faced by the family following Bansal’s arrest in a corruption case on 16 July 2016.
In the missive addressed to news agency PTI, Bansal, it appears, detailed the alleged harassment that his family faced following his arrest by the CBI and the raid conducted on their house on the date of his arrest. The note read:
“They were tortured so much that that they were compelled to commit suicide. Before learning about their suicide, DIG Sanjeev Gautam badly tortured me and told me that he will make the condition of my wife and daughter such that the entire family will plead for death but will not get death.”Note Attributed to BK Bansal
Hence, in a matter of two months, the family of four had vanished, prompting many to wonder why all four members of the family would kill themselves, when only one had been arrested and later released on bail, for allegedly receiving bribes from middlemen tasked by a Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company.
No Response from Centre
On 7 November 2016, EAS Sarma, a former secretary in the Ministry of Power filed a PIL in the Supreme Court asking for the “setting up of a Special Investigation Team” to “look into the deaths of Bansal and his family.”
In his petition, Sarma had asked for an independent probe into the suicides, as he was appalled,
“by what appears to be, a serious miscarriage of justice, in respect of the investigation into the deaths of Mr. B.K Bansal and his family. It appears that the surrounding circumstances are so intimidating that no person from his family is willing to protest or litigate.”
Following this, the apex court on 21 November 2016, issued a notice to the Centre and the CBI. However, almost three year after the SC’s directive, the Centre is yet to file its response in the matter. Online records of the Supreme Court show that the Centre’s representative remained absent from all three hearings before the Registrar in the matter, after the notice was served on it – the last hearing took place on 21 April 2017.
Speaking on the Centre’s absence from all hearings, the petitioner’s counsel Colin Gonsalves said “he has no clue as to why the Centre has not appeared or responded to the Supreme Court’s directive.”
Gonsalves mentioned the matter before a bench of former CJI Dipak MIsra, Justice Chandrachud and AM Khanwilkar on 13 August 2018, noting the fact that the Centre had not responded despite being issued notice. The judges directed the Centre to respond within four weeks, but the Centre has failed to comply with this direction as well.
CBI Rubbishes Claims in PIL
While the Centre remains unresponsive, The Quint has been able to access the CBI’s response to the PIL dated February 2017. In this counter-affidavit, the central agency asked for the plea to be rejected, saying that the arguments made by the petitioner were “misconceived and misleading, hence not tenable in the eyes of law.”
One of the key arguments made by the petitioner, on the basis of news clippings, was that “tremendous pressure” was put on BK Bansal’s wife Satyabala and their daughter Neha during the CBI raid.
Moreover, petition also quoted media reports to claim that BK Bansal had told the CBI judge that that the CBI had killed his wife and daughter and that he been allowed to speak to his family, he would have been able to prevent them from taking their lives. Bansal had allegedly sent his own suicide note to various news organisations, and sections from this were also quoted by Sarma.
The petition also suggested that Bansal’s son Yogesh had been summoned by the CBI for investigation, even though he was not an accused in the case.
However, the CBI refuted all allegations and said that the search was conducted in a cordial atmosphere and had followed all legal formalities. It said that Bansal’s wife and daughter were not subjected to any interrogation or pressure and that their death was solely out of social stigma.
The CBI said Bansal never made any submissions about the CBI killing his wife and daughter and threatening his son before the CBI judge. The agency also added that interrogation in the case was only limited to BK Bansal and that his son Yogesh was never summoned to the agency’s office.
Finally, the CBI pointed out that Yogesh Bansal and BK Bansal had wrongly blamed the CBI for their deaths in their suicide notes. According to the CBI, while Yogesh had developed suicidal tendencies following the death of his mother and sister, BK Bansal took his life because he was depressed by the exposition of his own involvement in a crime.
Complete Lack of Witnesses: Counsel
Responding the lack of progress in the case, Colin Gonsalves, the petitioners counsel, said, “We haven’t been able to move ahead due to a complete lack of witnesses in the case. Our case is only based on news clippings and we haven’t been able to find anyone who would talk to us about the case.”
Meanwhile, the petitioner EAS Sarma, too, confirmed that the case has been caught in a limbo, while adding that he would soon discuss the matter with his learned counsel.