The Supreme Court on Monday cleared the decks for filing of CBI chargesheet against BSP supremo and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati in the Rs 175 crore Taj Heritage Corridor case registered on the court's order in 2003.
Rejecting CBI Director's recommendation based on Attorney General Milon K Banerji's opinion to close the case against her, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice SB Sinha directed the CBI to place all the material collected during the investigation before CBI Special Judge, Lucknow. The Special Judge will decide the matter in accordance with law, it added.
The court, however, clarified that the December 31, 2004 CBI status report containing the Attorney General's opinion giving a clean chit to Mayawati and the Central Vigilance Commissioner's report would not be placed before the Special Court for consideration.
The timing of the judgment could not have been worse as it came within two months of the demise of mentor Kanshi Ram and just before the crucial Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. It is bound to adversely affect her political fortunes.
The only solace for Mayawati was that the court did not fix any deadline for the CBI to file the final report but a chargesheet just before the commencement of the electoral process could ruin her electoral prospects.
Earlier, on the request of the court, the CVC had examined the material collected by the CBI and opined that Mayawati and five others could be proceeded against.
The Bench noted that there was no difference of opinion in the investigating team led by a CBI SP and supervised by senior CBI officers like DIG, Joint Director and Additional Director. Therefore, the Investigating Officer's opinion would override that of the Attorney General, which formed the basis of CBI Director's recommendation to close the case against Mayawati.
The court noted with disapproval that the CBI Director did not examine the material and instead referred the matter to the Attorney General and then based on Banerji's opinion he recommended closure of the case.
Pulling up the CBI for adopting a wrong procedure and relying on the opinion of a senior Public Prosecutor, the Bench, also comprising Justice SH Kapadia and Justice DK Jain, said the prosecutor's role was to conduct the trial and not to advise the CBI.
The court was of the view that it was irrelevant as the whole investigating team, Assistant Legal Advisor and Deputy Legal Advisor had said that there was enough material to prosecute Mayawati.
Expressing concern over CBI's failure to perform statutory duties which has resulted into a large number of PILs being filed against it, the Bench expressed apprehension that a day will come when it would collapse as a rope of sand.
Mayawati had maintained that once the CBI decided to drop the case, no other authority could recommend otherwise and that the CVC did not have any power to direct the investigating agency on how to go about the case.
The Taj Heritage Corridor scam came to light after a former standing counsel of Uttar Pradesh Ajay Agrawal filed a PIL in the Supreme Court alleging corruption in the matter.
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