‘We didn’t direct roving probe; scope of order limited to money released for Taj project’

In a major relief to the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, the Supreme Court on Friday quashed a First Information Report registered against Mayawati by the CBI, alleging that she acquired assets dispro portionate to the known sources of her income.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and Dipak Misra said: “The impugned FIR is without jurisdiction and any investigation pursuant thereto is illegal. After reading all the orders of this Court, we are satisfied that this court, being the ultimate custodian of fundamental rights, did not issue any direction to the CBI to conduct a roving inquiry into the assets of the petitioner commencing from 1995 to 2003 even though the Taj Heritage Corridor Project was conceived only in July, 2002 and an amount of Rs. 17 crore was released in August/September 2002.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Sathasivam said: “The method adopted by the CBI is unwarranted and without jurisdiction. We are also satisfied that the CBI has proceeded without a proper understanding of various orders passed by this court. We are also satisfied that there was no such direction relating to second FIR (relating to disproportionate assets), dated 05.10.2003.”

Quoting a Constitution Bench decision in the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights case, the judges said: “Only when this court, after considering material on record, comes to a conclusion that such material does disclose a prima facie case calling for investigation by the CBI for the alleged offence, could an order directing inquiry by the CBI be passed and that too after giving an opportunity of hearing to the affected person...”

‘Scope of court order limited to Taj project’

Quoting a Constitution Bench decision in the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights case, A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and Dipak Misra said that only when this court, after considering material on record, came to a conclusion that such material did disclose a prima facie case calling for investigation by the CBI into the alleged offence, could an order directing an inquiry be passed and that too after giving the affected person an opportunity of hearing.

“There was no such finding or satisfaction recorded by this court in the matter of disproportionate assets of the petitioner on the basis of the status report dated September 11, 2003 and, in fact, the petitioner was not a party before this court in the case in question. From a perusal of those orders, we are also satisfied that there could not have been any material before this court about the disproportionate assets case beyond the Taj Corridor Project case and there was no such question or issue about disproportionate assets of the petitioner.”

The Bench said: “A perusal of the order dated September 18, 2003 would reveal that whatever directions were issued by this court were only in respect of Rs. 17 crore alleged to have been released without proper sanction [for the Taj corridor project] and there is not even a whisper about making an investigation into any other assets of the persons involved in general. In other words, the scope of the order of this court was limited to the extent of money released for the said project and not otherwise.”

In view of the same, “giving any direction to lodge FIR relating to the disproportionate assets case did not arise. The CBI exceeded its jurisdiction in lodging the FIR dated October 5, 2003 in the absence of any direction from this court. A reading of all the orders of this court clearly shows the direction to lodge FIR was issued only with respect to the Taj Corridor matter, more particularly, irregularities therein. The main allegation relates to an amount of Rs. 17 crore which was released by the State government without proper sanction. In such a situation, the CBI was directed to interrogate and verify their assets. As rightly pointed out by senior counsel Harish Salve, there was no occasion for this court to consider the alleged disproportionate assets of the petitioner separately that too from 1995 to 2003 when admittedly Rs. 17 crore was released in September 2002,” the Bench said.

“The fact remains that the investigation report filed by the CBI before this court which was considered on October 25, 2004 shows that large-scale irregularities do not show any link between such irregularities and the Taj Corridor matter. The said finding/conclusion by this court was based on the investigation report of the CBI. In view of the same, we are satisfied that the CBI cannot be permitted to take the view that the two cases, namely, the Taj Corridor and the disproportionate assets case, are the same and the investigation was done in both cases as per the directions of this court,” the Bench said.