Taj Scam: SC Orders FIRs Against Maya & 7 Others

New Delhi, Sept 18: | Updated: Sep 19 2003, 05:30am hrs
In an order that spells trouble for former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati, one of her cabinet colleagues and a host of serving Central and state IAS officials, the Supreme Court has directed CBI to lodge FIRs against them for their alleged involvement in the Rs 175-crore Taj heritage corridor scam.

After considering three different probe reports submitted by CBI, a bench comprising justices MB shah and BN Agrawal on Thursday said registration of FIRs were necessary for carrying out further probes as to how the project was undertaken and Rs 17 crore were sanctioned when the project itself was not cleared by statutory authorities.

Others against whom FIRs are to be registered are former UP minister Naseemuddin Siddiqi, Union environment secretary KC Mishra, former UP chief secretary DS Bagga, former state principal environment secretary RK Sharma, former state environment secretary VK Gupta, former principal secretary to Mayawati PL Punia and National Project Construction Corporation managing director SC Bali.

The CBI alleged that start of project work was approved by Mayawati and reeled out information on the alleged roles of Siddiqi and other officials in the irregularities and malpractices committed in regard to the project.

Construction on the project, envisaging to link the Taj Mahal with four other monuments - the Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula, Chini-ka-Roja and the Rambagh, was started on verbal orders of Sharma and that NPCC had unauthorisedly sub-contracted the work to a Delhi-based little known firm, Ikshwaku, it alleged.

The court also directed the Centre as well the state to start departmental inquiries against these bureaucrats within a week and complete it within four months. Keeping the matter for further consideration after four months, the bench said it would be open for the governments to pass orders of suspension, if called for, in accordance with the rules.

On the request of Additional Solicitor General Altaf Ahmed and advocate P Parameswaran, appearing for CBI, the court directed the income tax department to fully cooperate with CBI in carrying out further probes into the scam.

Immediately on the commencement of the hearing, CBI filed its report on the probe it carried out regarding the assets of those involved in the scam. After considering the report along with the two other reports submitted by the agency before, the bench ordered departmental inquiry against the bureaucrats and said for the aforementioned officers and for the rest of the persons involved in the matter, CBI is directed to lodge FRIs and make further investigation in accordance with law.

Keeping in mind that the agency would have to seek sanction from appropriate authority to prosecute a former chief minister and a former minister, the bench said, for holding investigations against Mayawati and Siddiqui, the CBI would take appropriate steps.

The agency informed the court a major part of the Rs 17-crore sanctioned by Sharma to NPCC, was transferred to Ikshwaku. It also said the Central Forensic and Scientific Laboratory had confirmed that Siddiqi, who had ordered release of Rs 20 crore for the construction in May, had interpolated files to cover up his misdeeds. The agency also alleged that CFSL had confirmed that the Union environment secretary KC Mishra had also indulged in interpolation of files to hide his failure to act on the report of the joint secretarys suggestion not to allow the construction work without a techno-feasibility report.

PTI