Will Mayawati face trial in Taj corridor case? Court to decide today

Lucknow: Will Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati face trial in the Taj corridor case? The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court will deliver judgement today on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that has challenged the refusal of the Uttar Pradesh Governor to prosecute Ms Mayawati and her close aide Naseemuddin Siddiqui.

That 2007 decision of the UP Governor had brought to a halt the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) investigation into the alleged Rs 17-crore scam in which Ms Mayawati, who was then Chief Minister of UP, faces allegations.

The Taj corridor project was launched by Ms Mayawati in 2002 to beautify areas adjoining near the Taj Mahal heritage monument in Agra. Rs 17 crore were allegedly released and work began without the necessary environmental clearances. In 2003, the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to conduct an enquiry into these allegations.

The CBI found these charges to be prima-facie true and lodged an FIR. In 2007, the CBI filed a chargesheet against Ms Mayawati and her aide Naseemuddin Siddiqui, charging them with fraud and criminal conspiracy. But the same year, Ms Mayawati was returned with an unambiguous majority as Chief Minister of UP and the governor, TV Rajeshwar, denied legal permission to try her.

The PIL was filed in 2009. The lawyers for the petitioner have argued that several Supreme Court judgments in the past clearly state that the CBI does not need sanction from a competent authority to prosecute any public servant.

The Taj corridor case also gave the CBI reason to look into Ms Mayawati's assets - it filed a first information report alleging that she had assets disproportionate to her known sources of income. That FIR was quashed earlier this year byu the Supreme Court, which said the agency had exceeded its brief by looking into Ms Mayawati's assets while investigating the Taj corridor case.

However, last month, the court made clear that its July judgement did not man a clean chit for the former chief minister. The court said that its judgement should not stop the CBI from taking proper sanction and inquiring into Ms Mayawati's assets. The BSP chief's legal troubles are far from over.