The supreme court and the CBI
The Supreme Court has dismissed the case against Mayawati that charged the former chief minister with massive corruption and owning assets that cannot be explained against her sources of income. The judges said that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was not justified in filing the case against the politician in the first place. They stressed that the CBI’s case against her was illegal and without jurisdiction.
“There was no direction to the CBI to conduct a probe into the petitioner’s assets. The agency had only been directed to probe the Taj Corridor case. There’s no material against her available to this court,” the judges said.
In 2002, the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to investigate what’s known as the Taj Corridor case. Mayawati has been accused of swindling money that was meant to develop and upgrade the area and tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal. The project was then cancelled for environmental reasons. As a spin-off from that case, the CBI filed a case against her accusing her of misusing her term as chief minister for personal gain.
The CBI had filed its case against Mayawati when she was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2004. Income tax officials however ruled in her favour; so did the Delhi High Court. The CBI, however, argued that it had enough evidence to prove the leader was guilty of graft. Its officers said that her declared assets leap-frogged from Rs. 1 crore in 2003 to Rs. 50 crores in 2007 – a period during which she was in power in UP. Mayawati said that much of the money that was being questioned had been donated to her by workers of her Bahujan Samaj Party or BSP.
This is a lesson that the CBI must learn: stay within the brief. However, one wonders whether the Income Tax officials are correct in ruling that there are no disproportionate gains. Does the question of whether a politician has disproportionate gains really come within the scope of the tax department? Or are we back to the vexed question of whether a Lokpal is needed to order such investigations?