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.
Besides two serving highly-ranked law officials, Arunachal Pradesh’s late Chief Minister Kalikho Pul named in his suicide note two former topmost legal officials for accepting bribes in the crores in exchange for decisions in cases related to financial scandals in his state.
The full and unexcised version of Pul’s explosive suicide note, accessed by The Quint, reveals in disturbing detail that besides highly-placed political leaders, personalities in the highest echelons of India’s legal fraternity contacted him directly or via their relatives and associates to seek massive bribes from him to “turn” the case involving President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh in his favour.
Pul named a lawyer-son and the brother, respectively, of two highly-ranked, serving law officials. Knowledgeable sources disclosed to The Quintthat one of three lawyer-sons of one of the senior-most law officials has been probed separately in connection with his alleged link with a Delhi-based advocate, who in October 2016 had filed an Income Tax return of Rs 125 crore.
Following this, the telephone of the Delhi-based advocate who was subsequently arrested in December 2016 was placed under surveillance by a central probe agency. Tapped phone conversations led the probe agency to discover the name of the senior legal authority’s lawyer-son. Subsequent investigations led to the seizure of large volume of demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes from his South Delhi residence. But this seizure has been kept under wraps.
The brother of a senior law official met two of Pul’s associates in a Delhi Five Star hotel and pitched a bribe amount of Rs 37 crore. “The senior law official met Pul’s associates before leaving the hotel for his brother to strike the deal which finally did not come through because the former CM did not agree to pay that kind of money,” an official who subsequently met the two individuals known to Pul said. One of these associates contacted by The Quint corroborated the meeting at the hotel and the demand for a bribe by the senior law official’s brother.
‘Approaches’ to Kalikho Pul
Eight months after President’s Rule was imposed on the north-eastern state in January 2016, Pul hanged himself at his Itanagar residence. He took the ultimate step after he was frustrated and deeply shocked by the “approach for bribes” by well-ensconced legal officials, corruption in his own party and his failure to turn the political tide in his favour.
But Pul’s 60-page suicide note, carefully worded and neatly typed out in Hindi, with each page bearing his name and signature, goes back in time to name the then authority of India’s legal fraternity.
Bribe in PDS Scam Case
Pul wrote: “Arunachal rajya mein huye PDS ghotaley case ko rajya sarkar ne ghalat bataya, FCI ne ghalat bataya aur kendra sarkar ne bhi ghalat bataya, phir bhi Supreme Court ne aaropiyon ko khula chhodkar unka pura payment karne ka aadesh diya. Jisse rajya ka vikas kosh khali ho gaya (In the PDS scam in Arunachal state, the state government said it was wrong, the FCI said it was wrong and the central government also said it was wrong, but the Supreme Court acquitted the accused beneficiaries and ordered that they be repaid in full. As a result, the state’s development treasury was emptied”).
Pul continues: “Xxxxx Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx Xxxxx ne 36 crore rupaye ki ghoos lekar ghalat faisla diya tha. Jisey unhonein apne bete ke zariye sumjhauta kiya. Jubki woh faisla galat tha (He took Rs 36 crore bribe to deliver a wrong judgement. He used his son to strike the deal. Whereas the decision was wrong”).
The late chief minister writes that “Arunachal rajya mein huye PDS scam… mein faisla contractaron ke hit mein diya tha. Jubki kendra sarkar aur FCI ne bhi is faisle ko galat thehraya tha (In Arunachal Pradesh’s PDS scam… a decision in favour of contractors. Whereas the central government and the FCI had held the judgement to be improper”).
Rs 28-Crore Payoff
In a last effort to expose corrupt Arunachal Pradesh ministers and some of his party colleagues, Pul claims: “Gauhati High Court ne Xxxx (senior minister) ke khilaaf ki gayi sunwayi mein Xxxx ko doshi theheraate huye CBI ki jaanch ke aadesh diye the. Lekin usi case mein…Xxxxxxx X X Xxxxx ko 28 crore rupaye ki ghoos dekar stay liya aur aaj bhi khule-aam ghoom rahein hain (In the hearing against Xxxx, the Gauhati High Court held Xxxx guilty and directed the CBI to investigate the case. But in that very case the Xxxxxxx X X Xxxxx was given a bribe of Rs 28 crore and a stay on it was obtained and today he is roaming about scot-free).”
Clues and Evidence
Pul then provides strong clues and evidence which he claims are in the records of the Gauhati High Court and the Supreme Court. “Food & Civil Supply ke Director X X Xxxx ke bank khaate se Xxxx ke khaate mein 30 lakh rupaye transfer kiye gaye. Iss baat ko Gauhati High Court ne bhi maana hai. Jiska record high court aur Supreme Court (ke) paas bhi hai,” Pul writes.
On Page 41 of the suicide note, Pul says: “Friends, whatever I have narrated in these pages is 100 percent true. I have said these things to my soul. I have neither exaggerated nor added mirch-masala to what I have put forth and nor have I tampered with facts.”