Media hype about the Supreme Court giving a “clean chit” to the BSP boss Mayawati in the Disproportionate Assets (DA) case is totally misplaced. While allowing former U P Chief Minister’s petition, an apex court Bench quashed the FIR registered against her in the DA case on purely technical grounds but didn’t go into the merits of the case. It held that the CBI didn’t understand its earlier orders and exceeded its jurisdiction by lodging an FIR against then Chief Minister on October 5, 2003 and conducted a “roving inquiry” into DA and other cases by riding piggyback on the Taj Corridor Case. A perusal of court’s order dated September 18, 2003, the Bench pointed out, would reveal that it had issued directions only in respect of Rs 17 crore allegedly released without proper sanctions for the Taj Corridor project and that there was not even a whisper about making an investigation into other cases. It is abundantly clear that the latest order of the Supreme Court doesn’t pertain to the Taj Corridor case of 2003 in which the former Chief Minister along with Naseemuddin Siddiqui, a former minister and several bureaucrats were charged under sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 of IPC for allegedly siphoning off Rs 17 crore on the pretext of constructing commercial buildings on a 2-km corridor around the Taj and several other monuments. There was a public outcry against Mayawati’s preposterous plan that had not been cleared by appropriate authorities. However, the Lucknow special CBI Court in 2007 refused to admit the charge sheet on the ground that the Governor T V Rajeshwar had withdrawn his sanction to prosecute then Chief Minister and other public servants. Several PILs were filed against the special court’s orders in the Lucknow bench of the High Court arguing that Governor’s sanction was not required for charges under IPC quoting SC orders in the P S Badal case that no sanction was needed in cases of forgery and cheating as it didn’t come under the discharge of a public servant’s official duty. The Taj Corridor case was not an issue before the Supreme Court, it is pending in the High Court.
The July 6, 2012 order of the Supreme Court can’t be interpreted as a declaration of Mayawati’s innocence as sections of media and her supporters are claiming. The CBI in its affidavit filed in the court says Mayawati’s assets increased from Rs one crore in 2003 to Rs 50 crore in 2007. It revealed that 96 plots, houses and orchards were acquired by her and her close relatives between 1998 and 2003. The former Chief Minister in her own affidavit filed with her nomination for the Rajya Sabha estimated the value of her wealth at Rs 111.64 crore. According to her own admission, the assets include residential buildings in Delhi worth Rs 61.86 crore, residential buildings in Lucknow worth Rs 15.68 crore, two commercial buildings in Connaught Circus worth Rs 9.36 crore and Rs 9.45 crore, 1034 grams gold and diamonds worth Rs 9.32 lakh. Mayawati’s claim that sharp increase in her wealth is an accretion of small contributions made by her millions of followers out of “love and affection” is untenable. Can she produce the records of money received from her followers? In 2007, the IT authorities submitted to ITSC in response to an appeal filed by the immediate family of the former Chief Minister that Rs 5.1 crore income declared by the family was not accompanied by a full disclosure and should be categorised as “unexplained”.
Further, IT department assessed Rs 17.75 and not Rs 5.1 crore was the income of the family. The legal position is that the family could have been imposed penalties up to 300 per cent i.e. Rs 25 crore and even sentenced to imprisonment. As per the settlement order, the family was asked to and duly paid Rs 8.4 core as income tax. It is in this context that the former Chief Minister’s claim that she has no unaccounted money as all income tax-related cases have been resolved to the satisfaction of revenue authorities is morally untenable. But for Congress party’s skill to manipulate government agencies and revenue officials’ lure for lucre, she would have been in trouble on that score too.
CBI’s narrative of what transpired in the Supreme Court is in sharp contrast to what the mainline media says. While de-linking the Taj Corridor case from the DA case, the Supreme Court had on October 25, 2004 ordered the CBI to proceed with the investigations and told the premier prosecuting agency that it was “at liberty to proceed with” and take action on the basis of their investigations in respect of FIR RC-19/2003. It further asked the CBI to bring to court’s notice any link between the two cases. The CBI claims that its investigation into the DA case was based on the information gathered by the agency about the huge amount of money in her two banks accounts. The agency had duly informed the apex court about the balance in these accounts and fixed deposits in the names of her close relatives besides immovable property in the name of her and members of her family. The CBI is baffled that the Bench had indicted it though it had followed the directions of the court and had apprised it of the developments by filing status reports from time to time. What the CBI left unsaid, because of obvious reasons, is that it did what the apex court says is a roving inquiry under political pressure.
The July 2012 order of the apex court has robbed the agency of whatever credibility it had. Flabbergasted by the strictures passed by the Court, top officials of the CBI are at their wit’s end to explain what went wrong. Although the FIRs in the two cases were filed when NDA was in power, the latter lost elections a few months later. During the UPA-I tenure, the CBI couldn’t (read was not allowed to) complete its investigation for three long years. During this period then Chief Minister offered one excuse after another about her wealth and made repeated representations to the Income Tax, Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) and Settlement Commission from whom she got respite after respite. No prizes for guessing who helped her in getting relief. CBI officials claim it has incriminating evidence to establish the DA case despite her success in getting relief from the IT authorities. It is public knowledge that under duress from the CBI and other government agencies and departments, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Ms Mayawati were “persuaded” to support the Congress-led Governments on several occasions. The latest instance is their support to the Congress party’s presidential candidate. Again, the Congress had in the past leveraged CBI to harass opposition leaders as well. Isn’t it high time to de-link the agency from the government of the day?