Mayawati will be not be tried for the alleged embezzlement of 17 crores centred on a project to develop the area around the Taj Mahal with better tourist facilities, initiated by her when she was Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Then Governor of Uttar Pradesh had not given his sanction that was required by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to prosecute Mayawati. The Allahabad High Court was hearing a public interest litigation challenging this, claiming that sanction was not an imperative in cases of corruption.
The court this morning decided that an earlier decision, which suspended the case against her, remains valid.
The case against Mayawati was filed in 2003; in 2007, the CBI dropped its probe because the UP governor then, TV Rajeshwar, did not sanction her prosecution. Sanction is required by the Centre when the CBI wants to charge an elected representative like a chief minister or a central minister and for bureaucrats above the rank of joint secretary. In this case, Governor Rajeshwar had asked for the opinion of the then Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, whose report said there was no merit in the CBI's case for prosecuting Mayawati. The governor denied the sanction for Mayawati's prosecution on this basis.
Challenging the need for sanction, counsel for the petitioner Prince Lenin said, "There were enough judgments of the Supreme Court that there is no need to take sanction from the competent authority to prosecute in cases of corruption, based on those judgments we feel that the denial of sanction by the governor to prosecute Mayawati was illegal."
Defending Mayawati, her close aide and senior BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra said, "There are no offences against Mayawati in the Taj Corridor case." He also termed the petitions filed in the case against her as "politically motivated" and pursued with "malafide intention".
The "Taj Corridor" case was overshadowed by the CBI's claim that searches revealed that Mayawati's assets could not be explained against her income - the focus quickly shifted to whether she had misused her office for financial windfalls. In July this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the CBI had exceeded its brief by extending its Taj Corridor inquiry into a larger investigation on the politician's personal assets.
But recently, it clarified that the CBI is free to pursue that line of inquiry after obtaining the required clearances and sanctions.
In 2002, when she was head of the Uttar Pradesh government, Ms Mayawati launched the "Taj Corridor" project with a budget of 175 crores. Construction began without environmental clearances. 17 crores were released by Mayawati and then the Supreme Court asked the CBI to investigate the case based on a complaint by a government official.
Early inquiries by the CBI convinced the Supreme Court that there were grounds for a case against Mayawati and then Environment Minister, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, who was her close aide.
So in 2007, the CBI filed a chargesheet in which Mayawati and Mr Siddiqui were charged with criminal conspiracy and fraud under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
In 2009, a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) case filed in the Allahabad High Court said the CBI must continue to investigate the chief minister, which today was rejected.