The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Governor grants Mayavati immunity

New Delhi, June 5: Uttar Pradesh governor T.V. Rajeswar has refused to allow Mayavati’s prosecution in the Taj corridor case, saying the evidence against the chief minister is not enough.

The CBI conveyed the governor’s decision, which came three weeks after the Bahujan Samaj Party leader assumed office, to a designated court in Lucknow.

Mayavati faced corruption charges in the project — to build a corridor along the Yamuna near the Taj Mahal — when she was chief minister in 2002.

The governor’s decision came as a shot in the arm for Mayavati, who blamed the BJP for dragging her into the controversy. “They were in power at the Centre then and used the CBI. It was one of their men who went to the Supreme Court,” the chief minister told reporters in Lucknow today.

Mayavati said it was not possible for somebody to siphon off Rs 175 crore, as some reports have suggested, when the cost of the project was Rs 17 crore.

The governor also refused to sanction the prosecution of Nasimuddin Siddique, Mayavati’s cabinet colleague at the time.

Both are among the six accused, including former chief secretary D.S Bagga and other officials.

On Monday, the CBI received a 23-page order from Rajeswar saying there was no reason to prosecute Mayavati. The order, dated June 3, goes into the details of the case and spells out the reasons for not giving the sanction.

“There is no prima facie case against Mayavati. The serious offences she is charged with do not stand legal scrutiny. There is no forgery either...there is no element of corruption on her part,” Rajeswar said.

Rajeswar said his decision is based on legal opinion that is “firmly against” the prosecution. The file seeking his sanction was sent by Mulayam Singh Yadav on the day of the counting for the Assembly elections last month.

The Congress denied suggestions that the reprieve to Mayavati was a deal to get the BSP’s support in the presidential polls. “The governor is well within his powers. I do not think it should be linked to any other thing,” spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi said.

The governor’s opinion is significant because the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the CBI’s investigation into the deal, is against closing the case.

Legal experts are of the view that the governor’s decision is open to judicial review — if it is challenged through a public-interest petition.

The CBI had also filed a status report on the probe in the apex court last November, saying there was no reason to prosecute Mayavati.

U.S. Mishra, who headed the agency then, overruled his investigating officers and recommended closure of the case. However, the apex court directed the agency to continue with the probe.

CPM suspicious

The CPM has smelt a rat in the governor’s refusal. It suspects a “behind-the-scenes deal” between her and the Congress.

Senior party leader M.K. Pandhe said there might have been some “political bargaining”. “Some give-and-take might have been there,” he told PTI.

The CPM, an ally of the Samajwadi Party, had drawn a blank in last month’s elections.

The CPI was cautious with its words. “I do not want to trouble her (Mayavati) now,” general secretary A.B. Bardhan said.

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