The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC thwarts Mayavati bailout on Taj

New Delhi, Nov. 27: The Supreme Court today cleared the decks for prosecution of former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayavati in the Rs 175-crore Taj heritage corridor scam.

Setting aside former CBI director U.S. Misraís decision to close the case which was registered on an apex court directive in 2003, a bench headed by Justice S.B. Sinha directed the investigating agency to place all the evidence before a special judge who would decide the fate of the case.

Although the CBI team was unanimous that the case should be pursued, Misra had closed the case on the attorney-generalís recommendation. He had sought the AGís view as the prosecutors were against going ahead with the case.

The court said the matter should not have been referred to the AG as there was no difference of opinion within the investigating team. Besides, Misra did not examine the matter but based his decision on the AGís opinion.

The view of the investigating officer and other CBI officers would prevail over the AGís, the court said.

With the apex court now directing the CBI to place the final report before the court concerned, the investigating team is likely to file a charge-sheet. It is unlikely that it will file a closure report since it had earlier been in favour of continuing with the case.

The investigating officer had favoured prosecution of Mayavati subject to the evaluation, as evidence, of an affidavit filed by co-accused P.L. Punia, former principal secretary to the chief minister. The CBI SP, DIG, additional director and others had suggested there was evidence to prosecute her. But the senior public prosecutor and the directorate of prosecution were not in favour.

Noting that Misra had filed a closure report despite some of his juniors favouring prosecution, the court had directed the central vigilance commission (CVC) to scrutinise the records and give its opinion.

The CVC recommended prosecution of Mayavati and five others but exonerated six accused.

The Mulayam Singh Yadav government submitted that the court could order a charge-sheet filed. The Centre did not directly oppose this but Mayavati contended the CVC did not have the powers to tell the CBI how it should investigate the case. The CVC could only look into cases against central government officials, she said.

The court today said it would be up to the special CBI judge to take or not take cognisance of the charge-sheet based on the investigating officerís report. The reports of the CVC and AG would not be placed before the special judge.

It noted that Misra should have inspected the file himself instead of referring it to the AG. As the CBI was failing in its duties, its functioning was being challenged by PILs, the court said. It added the day was not far when the system would collapse.

The CVC had recommended prosecution of Mayavati and former state environment minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui, who was also exonerated by Misra.

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