Aah Taj!

Published: Wednesday 15 October 2003

Former Uttar Pradesh (UP) chief minister (CM) Mayawati, the state's ex-environment minister, Nasimuddin Siddiqui, and six senior officials have backed themselves into a tight corner in the Rs 175-crore Taj Heritage Corridor project. On September 18, the Supreme Court (SC) directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register first information reports (FIRs) against them for having committed "serious irregularities and illegalities".

The bureaucrats named in the investigating agency's report are former Union environment secretary K C Mishra, ex-chief secretary of UP D S Bagga, suspended principal secretary R K Sharma, former principal secretary to Mayawati P L Punia, former state environment secretary V K Gupta and National Project Construction Corporation managing director S C Bali. The apex court also the Union and UP governments to conduct departmental inquiries against the officials. A two-judge bench comprising Justice M B Shah and Justice B N Aggrawal gave the ruling. It also told the CBI to continue probing the "invisible assets" of the eight persons to establish their complicity.

On September 11, the CBI had submitted a two-volume, 700-page final report on its inquiry into the scam. The court had then observed: "Go after the trail of the Rs 17 crore released for the construction of the project and find out where it has gone...." Punia and Bagga have reportedly disclosed that Mayawati's elaborate birthday bash was funded by kickbacks from the Taj project.

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