Late Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul’s widow, Dangwimsai Pul, on Friday put the Supreme Court in a tricky position. She sought the Chief Justice of India JS Khehar’s permission to lodge a criminal case against two top judges, who allegedly took bribes in the case arising out of the issue of imposition of President’s Rule in the state in January 2016.
Application to the CJI
In a carefully-worded application to Justice Khehar, which could put the CJI in a quandary, Dangwimsai says: “If the allegations are against the Chief Justice then the permission required (for a CBI investigation into alleged bribe-taking by the two senior-most Supreme Court judges) would be of other judges, which would obviously mean the next senior-most judge available.” A copy of the application is in the possession of The Quint.
Strongly hinting that the CJI is not in a position to accord permission, Dangwimsai’s application says: “Through this letter I am therefore requesting you to grant permission for the registration of an FIR on the basis of the allegations of corruption contained in the suicide diary of my late husband.” She enclosed a copy of the suicide note to Justice Khehar.
Demand for a CBI Probe
Turning the screws on the judiciary, Dangwimsai goes on to state in the application that she was “sure that you (Justice Khehar) will have the matter placed before the appropriate judge in accordance with the judgement in the Veeraswami case for consideration of my request”.
The application reminds Justice Khehar that the suicide note “contains many allegations of corruption in Arunachal Pradesh as well as in the judiciary and in particular against two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, who were parties to the judgement, which quashed President’s Rule and lead (sic) to the unseating of my husband.”
Making the CJI “aware” that a “suicide note is like a dying declaration and is treated very seriously as evidence,” she says that the “Supreme Court has also laid down that any allegations of an offence made to a police officer must be investigated after registering an FIR on the subject”.
She further writes:
This note contains several allegations constituting offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and others. And therefore, it is essential that an FIR be registered on the basis of the allegations contained in it and the case be investigated by the CBI since the primary allegation are corruption of judges at the highest level.
Dilemma for the Top Court
Quoting the K Veeraswami vs Union of India case, Dangwimsai says that “a Constitution bench of this court (Supreme Court) had directed that though judges of the higher judiciary are amenable for corruption investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act, to safeguard their independence and to save them from harassment at the hands of the executive, any FIR and investigation of a judge at the higher judiciary would require permission of the Chief Justice of India”.
This application will certainly make top Supreme Court judges uncomfortable. However, laid down procedures make it mandatory for judges other than the CJI or even the next senior-most judge to allow the third in line to take a decision on an issue involving the apex court’s permission to proceed with filing a criminal case.