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Taj corridor returns to haunt Mayawati

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The News Bureau

The alleged 2002-2003 Taj heritage corridor scam worth Rs 175 crore has returned to haunt Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, the then Uttar Pradesh chief minister.

It will also trouble the then irrigation minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui, who is now in the Congress, as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has procured the first prosecution sanction in the case.

CBI officials said the central development agency National Projects Construction Corporation (NPCC), which was developing the project, intended to upgrade tourist facilities near the Taj Mahal and was to be implemented during Mayawati’s tenure 20 years ago, has given sanction to prosecute the then general manager (now retired) Mahendra Sharma.

The officials said prosecution officer of the CBI, Amit Kumar requested the sanction for prosecution of Sharma in the case in November 2022 and the NPCC gave the sanction last month.

They said it was the first prosecution sanction in the case in past 20 years, adding that a CBI special court (corruption) in Lucknow will examine the prosecution sanction on May 22 and take up the matter further. The central probe agency was also going to make witness senior officials of NPCC who facilitated the prosecution sanction against Sharma recently.

A senior CBI official said the then state Governor TV Rajeswar had denied the prosecution sanction against Mayawati in June 2007 after the BSP again came to power citing that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute her and other accused.

He said thereafter the then BSP government denied the permission for prosecution sanction against the then principal secretary (environment) R.K. Sharma and Secretary Rajendra Prasad after which the CBI dropped further proceedings in the matter in 2008.

He said the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court upheld trial court’s order to close the case for want of sanction to prosecute in November 2012.

He said, however, a Supreme Court bench agreed to examine the case and asked the relevant parties to file their response in January 2013.

He said a special leave petition (SLP) was filed in the Supreme Court in the case and further proceedings in the matter were still pending.

Earlier, the Supreme Court has ordered a CBI probe into the matter while hearing a petition filed against the project. The CBI had registered a regular case under Indian Penal Code sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (fraud), 467 (forging of documents), 468 (using forged documents for cheating purpose) and 471 (using forged documents as genuine).

Besides, charges under sections 13(1)(D) of the Prevention of Corruption Act for misuse of official position were also included in the FIR.

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