Why the Kalikho Pul matter raised more questions than it answered: Snippets from courtroom 13

Why the Kalikho Pul matter raised more questions than it answered: Snippets from courtroom 13

Vasudha Misra

It’s not often that one gets to see a real life potboiler unfold layer by layer, but today was an exceptional day. The Kalikho Pul matter, which grabbed media attention once the contents of the explosive letter purported to have been written by the former Chief Minister came out, today became the subject of a short, but fiery hearing in the Apex Court.

Spectators emerged from the hearing as clueless as ever, for such was the nature of the revelations that unfolded in court. Here are some questions that were left unanswered.

  1. Why was the letter posted as a criminal writ petition?

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave opened his submissions by asking the Registry exactly this question. Upon receiving the Bench’s assurance that it was done on the order of the Chief Justice of India, he went on to state that if that was the case, he would still be forced to question the error in judgment.

From the letter written by the petitioner to the CJI, it seems that she had requested for a CBI inquiry to be conducted pursuant to the registration of the case as an FIR, an issue which could have been dealt with by a simple administrative order. Instead, the matter was posted on the judicial side.

The letter had categorically quoted the Constitution Bench judgment of K Veeraswami to note,

“…any FIR and investigation of a judge at the higher judiciary would require the permission of the Chief Justice of India.

The judgment further says that if the allegations are against the Chief Justice, then the permission required would be of other judges, which would obviously mean the next senior most judge available.”

Why then, was the case posted in Court Number 13, when it should ideally have gone to a more senior Bench?

  1. Who is the former judge that met the petitioner’s counsel?

One of the questions that was drowned out in the murmurs of a crowded courtroom pointed to a highly suspicious event. Dave had alleged that a former judge of the Supreme Court met him after the scathing revelations of the letter came to light.

Who could this judge be? And could there be reason enough for a retired judge to approach the counsel in a high profile case without there being concerns of impropriety?

  1. Was Dangwimsai Pul denied any formal means of communication?

Another detail of some importance would be the attitude of the Registry in communicating with the wife of the deceased. Dave stated, much to the suppressed astonishment of Justice UU Lalit, that Pul’s wife was only informed of the posting of the matter before the Bench via a phone call made from the Registry.

While delay can be understood, it is hard to imagine the circumstances under which the Registry would not send a written communication, especially in a matter as sensitive as this.

An Indian Express report, however, notes that the CJI passed an order on the administrative side and directed the Registry to have the order served on her in a sealed envelope.

But was it delivered? If at all it was, what were the contents of the same? And finally, what skeletons are yet to tumble out of the closet?

Even as the Court permitted the petitioner to withdraw her letter, there was a general unease between the judges on the Bench. Justice Lalit made a comment to the effect that the withdrawal of the letter after making a specific request did not make sense, but chose to refrain from an elaborate discussion.

The way the case has been handled thus far really begs the question: Is a CBI enquiry such a bad idea, given that it is a case concerning a former Chief Minister?

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