Late Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul’s 60-page suicide note, written on 7 August 2016, has forced two central probe agencies to turn their lens on four highly placed members of the top-most levels of India’s legal fraternity, who allegedly demanded bribes in crores from him.
A copy of Pul’s explosive suicide note, in the possession of The Quint, names four legal officials – two are serving, while the other two have retired from service. His suicide note – typed in Hindi and bearing his signature on each page – attempts to expose corruption among some members of the Congress, as well as players in the country’s highest legal circles.
On 20 February 2016, Pul became Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh with the help of some Congress rebels and the BJP. After the legal validity of his government was questioned, the Supreme Court ruled against Pul on 13 July 2016 and dismissed his government. In his suicide note, Pul alleged that he was asked to pay a bribe to alter the decision in his favour.
A few weeks later, frustrated and dejected over the pressures of the bribe demands and his political loss, Pul committed suicide by hanging himself in his Itanagar home on 8 August 2016.
ED on the Trail
Besides Pul’s suicide note, the Enforcement Directorate has culled information about the links between a New Delhi-based advocate and the lawyer son of a top law official. Last year, the Delhi advocate in question filed Income Tax returns of Rs 125 crore. He was arrested in December 2016 for allegedly laundering Rs 70 crore after demonetisation was announced. The ED’s information was compiled after interrogating the arrested advocate.
The Greater Kailash residence of the arrested advocate was searched on 10 December 2016. ED sleuths found about Rs 14 crore in cash, including Rs 2 crore in new Rs 2,000 banknotes. The amount was hauled away by the ED in five suitcases and four steel trunks.
The Delhi lawyer is originally from Chandigarh, where his father was once a high court judge.
The advocate reportedly claimed that the seized money was legit and belonged to his clients.
But his interrogation threw up the name of the lawyer son of the “professionally active” judicial luminary, leaving the ED sleuths on his case “stunned”.
“The revelation is top secret and some of the information related to the legal luminary’s son, a practising lawyer, has been shared at the highest level,” a government source said.
Why the Suicide Note is Important
The Quint has confirmed the alleged role of the lawyer son in demanding bribes from Pul, a point which the CBI is “informally” aware of.
The Quint, however, will not reveal the name of this person or that of the four senior law officials for legal reasons.
The suicide note assumes significance because legally it can be treated at par with a person’s dying declaration and is therefore admissible as evidence.
Shady Meeting at a Five-Star Hotel in Delhi
The suicide note also discloses the name of the brother of another experienced legal official who sought a massive bribe from Pul.
“Wahi Xxxxxxx Xxxxx ke bhai ne mujhse 37 karod rupaye ki maang ki thi (The brother of Xxxxxxx Xxxxx had asked me for a Rs 37 crore bribe),” the note says.
A top source revealed that the brother of this experienced legal official got in touch with “two persons close to Pul and demanded a large sum of money”. The source said that Pul’s two associates met this legal official’s brother in a high-end five star hotel in Delhi, where the demand for the bribe was made.
In his damning suicide note, Pul, talks about “losing faith in the judiciary” because of the “absolutely wrong” apex court judgement ordering imposition of President’s Rule in the state. “My associates and I were contacted several times to say that the decision could be made in my favour (excised) for (excised) Rs 86 crore,” he says.
He also alleges that several Arunachal Pradesh politicians, including a few former Chief Ministers and state Ministers, took to corrupt means.
Threats to Pul's Relatives
Close relatives of Pul claimed they have received threatening calls over the phone once copies of the excised suicide note became available to “certain political persons” in Arunachal Pradesh.
In his suicide note, the former CM laments the state of affairs in the judiciary and the general corruption in high places. He calls this a ticking “time bomb” for many in the legal fraternity. “I don’t look upon the Supreme Court verdict as my defeat,” Pul says . “I know that if I choose to file a clarification, review petition or SLP (Special Leave Petition), I am sure to win. But xxxxxx xxxxx xxxx xx Rs 80-90 crore xxxx xxxxx xxxxx and that is why I do not want to do any such thing.”
When contacted, the then Arunachal Pradesh Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa, who was removed from the post a few weeks after Pul’s suicide, told The Quint that “he has read the excised note” and the that names of “high constitutional authorities and agents demanding bribes from Mr Pul” figure in it.
Asked specifically whether the top law official’s lawyer son’s name figured in the suicide note, Rajkhowa said: “I am told that his name as well as that of others appears in it (suicide note).”
Report Sent to PM Ignored?
According to Rajkhowa, he had demanded a CBI inquiry into Pul’s “unnatural death” in the “special reports” he sent to President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and Vice-President Hamid Ansari. “But there was no response from these dignitaries to my pointed references to the scams in Arunachal Pradesh and my demand for a CBI probe into Pul’s death,” he said. In fact, Rajkhowa stated, “I was made a scapegoat and forced to resign.”
What made Pul’s suicide sensational was that two months after he took his life, the body of Sushil Burman, a caretaker of the former Chief Minister’s bungalow in Itanagar, was found hanging in a room opposite the one in which the ex-CM allegedly committed suicide.
(To be continued)
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
Producer: Anubhav Mishra