’Mayawati should return money’: SC directs BSP supremo to reimburse public funds used for her, elephant statues

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Friday said it was of the prima facie view that BSP chief Mayawatishould reimburse public money that was spent on installing statues of herself and elephants, the party’s symbol, in Lucknow and Noida.

“We primarily think Mayawati should return this money she has spent from the public exchequer on statues, elephants,” remarked Justice Gogoi.

Notably, the PIL filed by advocate Ravi Kant in 2009 against the installation of statues was coming up before the CJI for the first time when he expressed his tentative view.

The judge added: “Please come prepared on the next date of hearing. We are posting this on April 2. And you now know our tentative view.” 

The comment from the bench prompted senior lawyer and BSP MP Satish Mishra to seek a date in May, perhaps because the voting for the general election is likely to take place in April and the party would not want any adverse news against its top leader around the voting.

But the CJI turned down this plea. “No. We won’t defer it. Please don’t make us say anything more. We would want to say a lot more and but don’t make us. Come prepared on the next date,” retorted the bench.

The PIL alleges that spending over Rs 1,200 crore on statues was completely unjustified when UP has more than 50 million people below the poverty line, besides the lowest literacy rate in the country. 

Kant had also pointed out that these permanent structures also violated model code of conduct which restrained such displays during the elections. 

The Mayawati government had earlier told the court that the entire expenditure is based on the budget passed by the legislature and that there was no scope for a judicial review in view of the legislative sanction. 

The records then submitted by the state government had suggested that each statue of Kanshi Ram and Mayawati cost Rs 6.65 crore. Each elephant statue costs more than Rs 70 lakh. 

In addition, crores had to be spent on constructing boundary walls around parks across the state where these statues were installed and another Rs 80 crore per annum on the maintenance of these parks.

In connection with alleged financial irregularities in constructing these memorials, the UP Vigilance Department had registered a complaint in 2014, when Akhilesh Yadav was the chief minister, whose government alleged the scam had resulted in the loss of over Rs 1100 crore to the government exchequer and unlawful gain to public servants and private individuals. 

The Vigilance FIR was registered on the basis of a report by the UP Lokayukta, who alleged in May 2013 that Rs 1,400 crore of public money had been siphoned off in the construction of the memorials.

The report had also indicted 199 individuals, including Mayawati’s then close aides and former ministers Naseemuddin Siddiqui and Babu Singh Kushwaha, and 12 of her party MLAs for alleged “wrong-doings” in the purchase of sandstone for the memorials.

Allahabad High Court is currently seized of a matter relating to progress of investigation into this case.