|Maya case should go on,
Taj Corridor: Special Judge to decide on chargesheet
New Delhi, November 27
In a major setback to BSP supremo and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati in the Rs 175-crore Taj Heritage Corridor scam, the Supreme Court today rejected the CBI Director’s report for closing the case and directed the agency to submit the entire material to the Special Judge, Lucknow, to decide independently whether prosecution should be launched against her and other accused persons.
The court rejected the CBI Director’s report based on Attorney-General Milon Banerjee’s opinion for closing the case, saying that the matter should have not been referred to the latter by the agency’s chief without first giving his own opinion, specially when the entire investigating team, headed by an officer of the rank of SP unanimously had opined that a case was made for filing of the charge sheet against the accused persons.
A three-judge Bench of Mr Justice S. B. Sinha, Mr Justice S. H. Kapadia and Mr Justice D. K. Jain said in investigation of criminal cases, the law “is clear” that the opinion of the Investigating Officer (IO) in charge was final for filing of the charge sheet. He is not required even to seek the opinion of the Public Prosecutor as his role comes in the picture only for conducting the trial after the charge sheet is filed.
In this case, the then CBI Director (US Misra) without giving his opinion had not only over-rulled the IO and the SP in charge of the probe but five other senior officers, including the Additional Director, Joint Director, DIG, Additional Legal Adviser and Deputy Legal Adviser, who had given clearance for filing the charge sheet against Mayawati, her Cabinet colleague Naseemuddin Sidiqui and others, the court pointed out.
It came down heavily on the CBI Director, who in his status report submitted on December 31, 2004 had sought the closure of the case based on the AG’s opinion. The court had then sought the opinion of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which said its role was only that of advisery in nature vis-à-vis CBI in such matters.
Taking all these aspects into consideration, the Court said neither the AG’s opinion, nor the CVC advisory, would be sent to the Special Judge as he would form his opinion entirely on the basis of the report of the IO and the evidence gathered by the investigating team.
The Court expressed anguish over the manner the CBI had dealt with the case and the growing tendency of approaching the apex court in all criminal cases involving some important persons. The premier investigating agency like CBI was expected to do its duty honestly, otherwise the criminal investigation and justice delivery system would collapse like a “heap of sand”, the Bench said.
The CBI had registered the
FIR in October 2003 against Mayawati, Siddiqui, former U P Chief Secretary
D S Bagga, Mayawati’s Principal Secretary P L Punia, former U P Environment
Directors R K Sharma and V K Gupta, former Union Environment Secretary
K C Mishra, former National Construction Corporation CMD S C Bali and three
other officers for their alleged involvement in the Rs 175-crore Taj Corridor
scam. Mayawati’s Government had envisaged the building of the heritage
corridor behind Taj Mahal by digging the Yamuna bed without environment
Taj Heritage Corridor
Accepting expert advice against dismantling of the constructions carried out during the chief ministership of Mayawati, ASI submitted a plan to the Supreme Court on August 26 seeking permission to create a dense forest belt along the mud corridor. As per the plan, the five monuments — Taj Mahal, Mahtab Bagh, Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-Daula, Chini-ka-Roza and Ram Bagh — will be linked by a mud path with little or no construction.
The greening of the area to be undertaken by the ministry of environment and forest would be carried out after removing stones and other construction material still lying at the proposed THC project site, the ASI informed the Supreme Court in an affidavit through counsel A D N Rao.
The greening of the area will come at a cost to nearby villagers, who have been using the Yamuna, which flows adjacent to Taj, for their daily needs.
The villagers, who have been using the river from time immemorial for bathing their cattle, washing, bathing and public toilet facilities, will have to be provided alternate facilities, ASI said and sought a direction to this effect from the court.
"If this is not done, the green belt and the green cover around the monuments will be endangered seriously," ASI warned. It also requested the court to direct the authorities to shift the cremation ground from the vicinity of Taj and encourage people to use the electric crematorium.
The whole green area, which will be an integrated complex having only walking tracks, should be declared a part of the protected monuments of Taj and Agra Fort, ASI said aiming to prevent trespassing completely.
Apart from increasing the scenic beauty of the area, the green belt would give "excellent protection" to the monuments from air and water pollution and also improve the air quality of the polluted city of Agra, it said.
Rainwater harvesting in the entire area would recharge the groundwater acquifiers to help bring up the water table in the area, it said.
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