The Congress added more ammunition to its poll campaign by launching a severe attack on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, accusing him of indiscriminate land allotments to judges, bureaucrats, Samajwadi Party workers, and even journalists.
Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal held a press conference on Sunday to accuse Mulayam misusing discretionary powers in allotting plots of land in Noida to 99 people.
He alleged that they included Sheeba Sabharwal, daughter of former Chief Justice of India YK Sabharwal, Aaorhi Bhalla, son of Jagdish Bhalla, a sitting judge of the Allahabad High Court, Poonam Srivastava, a relative of Allahabad High Court judge Subodh Kumar Srivastav and Allahabad High Court judge Uday Krishna Dhaon.
Quickly reacting to Sibal’s charge, former Chief Justice of India YK Sabherwal said, "this is absolutely absurd. It is most unfortunate that such absurd allegations are made. It is madness. It is unfortunate that people can stoop to such levels."
Sabharwal held that seven members of his family had applied for allotment and there was a draw of lot in which only one of his family member was successful. "It is absurd to draw the assumption that one was successful and there was favouritism.
If this is to be accepted, then it will mean that no family member of any judge in the country should apply for allotment of plots where draw is to take place."
Asked whether he would take any legal action against Sibal or anyone else, he said "I can only tell you that these types of absurdities, I treat them with the contempt they deserve. Whether I will take any legal action or not, that is a matter I will have to ponder."
Sibal, who heads Congress’ media management committee, said "valuable assets belonging to the state were sought to be parted with to individuals who were meant to favour particular individuals under different categories, extending political patronage, hopefully with the intent of the political party extending that benefit to get favours in return."
Sibal charged that the allotments were made with no public purpose in mind and prima facie provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 stand attracted. "We believe that such allotments were handpicked with no public purpose in mind and that prima facie the provisions of section 13(1)(d)(ii) and (iii) of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 stand attracted," he added.
The allotments was made in 2005, he said. The Allahabad High Court had later quashed the allotments and ordered a CBI probe into them. Subsequently, the Supreme Court stayed the probe order of the High Court.
Sibal said he would not comment on the apex court decision. "But we do humbly submit that the offences committed are cognizable and the law must be allowed to take its course."
He said "We also believe that if the corruption in high places is to be dealt with, then criminal prosecutions must be launched in accordance with law."
Other names included those of Usha Dipti Vilas, wife of D Dipti Vilas, IAS, and Secretary to Chief Minister and Tanu Patni, wife of Piyush Mordia, an IPS officer who was suspended when the Nithari killings came to light, and seven people connected with media including four Hindi dailies and PTI.
Bhalla was recommended for appointment as the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court but President APJ Abdul Kalam has raised queries.