Mayawati vs Union of India & Ors.
The question raised in the writ petition, filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India, was whether FIR No. R.C. 0062003A0019 dated 05.10.2003 lodged under Section 13(2) read with Section 13 (1) (e) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against the petitioner to investigate into the matter of alleged disproportionate assets was beyond the scope of the directions passed by the Supreme Court in the order dated 18.09.2003 in I.A. No. 376 of 2003 in W.P. (C) No. 13381 of 1984 titled M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and Others, (2003) 8 SCC696. The petitioner assailed the FIR on the ground that there was no direction by the Supreme Court in its order dated 18.09.2003 which could have empowered the CBI to lodge two FIRs, namely, (i) FIR No. R.C. 0062003A0018 dated 05.10.2003 under Section 120-B read with Sections 420, 467, 468, and 471 IPC and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the P.C. Act against the petitioner as well as 10 other accused persons in respect of Taj Corridor matter and (ii) FIR No. R.C. 0062003A0019 dated 05.10.2003 under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(e) of the P.C. Act against the petitioner only.
It was the stand of the CBI that in the order dated 18.09.2003 passed by Supreme Court in I.A. No. 376 of 2003 in Writ Petition No. 13381 of 1984 – M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and Others, (2003) 8 SCC 696, there was a clear direction to register an FIR for investigating into disproportionate assets of the petitioner on the ground that in the said order, it was mentioned that “apart from what has been stated in the reports with regard to the assets, the learned ASG Mr. Altaf Ahmed has submitted that further inquiry/investigation is necessary by the CBI”. It was also their stand that the validity of the aforesaid FIRs was not disturbed by the Allahabad High Court by its order dated 22.10.2003 on the ground that the FIR in question was filed as per the directions of the Supreme Court. It was further stated that the second FIR being No. R.C. 0062003A0019 dated 05.10.2003 revealed the details of huge amount of disproportionate assets possessed by the petitioner and her family members beyond their known sources of income.
According to the CBI, liberty was granted by the Supreme Court to proceed against the petitioner. It relied on para 9 of the order dated 25.10.2004 – M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and Others, (2007) 1 SCC 137 :-
“Re: FIR RC 0062003A0019
- The further investigation report filed by CBI in this connection while indicating large-scale irregularities does not in fact show any link between such irregularities and the Taj Corridor matter which is the subject-matter of reference before the Special Bench. CBI therefore is at liberty to proceed with and take action on the basis of their investigation in respect of this FIR. In the event any link is disclosed in the course of such investigation between facts as found and the Taj Corridor Project, CBI will bring the same to the notice of this Court. In any event, CBI will be entitled to take action on the basis of the investigation as it may think fit.”
In addition to the above, CBI also pressed into service para 4 of the order dated 19.07.2004 – M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and Others, (2007) 1 SCC 136 which read as under : –
“4. CBI is permitted further eight weeks’ time to complete the investigation in respect of FIR No. RC 0062003A0018. As far as FIR No. RC 0062003A0019 is concerned, three months’ time is granted.”
Few relevant orders are as under:
Order dated 16.07.2003 – M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and Others, (2003) 8 SCC 706, the Supreme Court, in order to find out who cleared the project, i.e., construction of the ‘Heritage Corridor’ at Agra and for what purpose it was cleared without obtaining necessary sanction from the Department concerned and whether there was any illegality or irregularity committed by the officers/persons, came to the conclusion that inquiry by CBI is necessary. Accordingly, in para 16 of the said order, the Supreme Court directed the Director of CBI to see that inquiry with regard to any illegality/irregularity committed by the officers/persons be conducted at the earliest and directed to submit a report to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court also directed the CBI to submit Preliminary report within four weeks and final report within two months from 16.07.2003.
Order dated 21.08.2003 – M.C Mehta vs. Union of India, (2003) 8 SCC 711, the Supreme Court, after going through the Preliminary Confidential Report submitted by the CBI, directed the higher officer of CBI to interrogate four, five or six more persons who are involved in the decision-making of granting contract for construction of the Taj Heritage Corridor. In the same order, the Supreme Court observed that it would be open to the CBI officer to interrogate and verify their assets because it was alleged that Rs. 17 crores were released without proper sanction.
Order dated 18.09.2003 – M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India and Others, 2003 (8) SCC 696. In the order, the Supreme Court referred to the earlier directions and orders, more particularly, the direction to CBI to interrogate the persons involved and verify their assets in view of the fact that it was alleged that an amount of Rs. 17 crores was released without proper sanction. After going through the report of the CBI submitted on 11.09.2003, further time was given to the CBI for verification of the assets of the persons/officers involved. In the course of hearing, the CBI pointed out that income tax returns of various persons including the petitioner were collected from different income tax authorities. In the course of the said proceedings, apart from various reports with regard to the assets CBI further submitted that further inquiry/investigation is necessary by the CBI. Based on its request, the Supreme Court issued the following directions:
“13. Considering the aforesaid report and the serious irregularities/illegalities committed in carrying out the socalled Taj Heritage Corridor Project, we direct:
(a) the Central Government to hold immediate departmental inquiry against Shri K.C. Mishra, former Secretary, Environment, Union of India;
(b) the State of Uttar Pradesh to hold departmental inquiry against Shri R.K. Sharma, former Principal Environment Secretary, Shri P.L. Punia, former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Shri D.S. Bagga, Chief Secretary and Shri V.K. Gupta, former Secretary, Environment;
(c) NPCC or the competent authority including the Central Government to hold inquiry against Shri S.C. Bali, Managing Director of NPCC;
(d) the State Government as well as the officers concerned of the Central Government are directed to see that departmental inquiry is completed within four months from today. The State of U.P. and the Central Government would appoint respective inquiry officers for holding inquiry, within a period of seven days from today;
(e) it would be open to the State Government if called for to pass order for suspension of the delinquent officers in accordance with the rules;
(f) for the officers and the persons involved in the matter, CBI is directed to lodge an FIR and make further investigation in accordance with law;
(g) CBI shall take appropriate steps for holding investigation against the Chief Minister Ms Mayawati and Naseemuddin Siddiqui, former Minister for Environment, U.P. and other officers involved;
(h) the Income Tax Department is also directed to cooperate in further investigation which is required to be carried out by CBI;
(i) CBI would take into consideration all the relevant Acts i.e. IPC/Prevention of Corruption Act and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 etc;
(j) CBI to submit a self-contained note to the Chief Secretary to the Government of Uttar Pradesh as well as to the Cabinet Secretary, Union Government and to the Ministry concerned dealing with NPCC.”
The Supreme Court observed that perusal of the orders prior to the order dated 18.09.2003 and several directions in the order dated 18.09.2003 clearly showed that the Supreme Court was concerned with illegality/irregularity committed by the officers/persons in carrying out the Taj Heritage Corridor Project. The main allegation relate to an amount of Rs. 17 Crores which was released by the State Government without proper sanction. In order to find out who cleared the project and for what purpose it was cleared without obtaining necessary sanction from the Department concerned and whether there was any illegality/irregularity committed by the officers/persons, the Supreme Court thought an inquiry by CBI was considered necessary. In such a situation, the CBI was directed to interrogate and verify their assets. There was no occasion for the Supreme Court to consider the alleged disproportionate assets of the petitioner separately that too from 1995 to 2003 when admittedly Rs. 17 Crores were released in September, 2002. A thorough scrutiny of all the orders including the specific directions dated 18.09.2003 clearly show that the same was confined only in respect to the case relating to Taj Corridor Project which was the subject-matter of reference before the Special Bench. Para 13(f) of the order dated 18.09.2003 make it clear that the CBI could have lodged only one FIR No. R.C. 0062003A0018 dated 05.10.2003. inasmuch as there being no consideration of alleged disproportionate assets at any stage of the proceedings while dealing with the Taj Corridor matter, there could not have been and in fact there was no such direction to lodge another FIR being No. R.C. 0062003A0019 dated 05.10.2003 exclusively against the petitioner under the P.C. Act.
But the Supreme Court observed that merely because various orders of the Supreme Court including the order dated 18.09.2003 had been communicated to various authorities in terms of the provisions of the rules of the Supreme Court, the CBI is not justified in putting the Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court as informant/complainant. The complainant/Assistant Registrar would not and cannot be a witness in the case to corroborate the statements made in the FIR No. R.C. 0062003A0019 dated 05.10.2003. Thus proceeding further, as if the said Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court made a complaint cannot be sustained.
The Supreme Court held that it being the ultimate custodian of the fundamental rights did not issue any direction to the CBI to conduct a roving inquiry against 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 crores was released in August/September, 2002. The method adopted by the CBI was held unwarranted and without jurisdiction. The CBI had proceeded without proper understanding of various orders passed by the Supreme Court. There was no such direction relating to second FIR, namely, FIR No. R.C. 0062003A0019 dated 05.10.2003. The Constitution Bench decision of the Supreme Court in Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, West Bengal observed that only when the Supreme 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, an order directing inquiry by the CBI could be passed and that too after giving opportunity of hearing to the affected person. There was no such finding or satisfaction recorded by the Supreme Court in the matter of disproportionate assets of the petitioner on the basis of the status report dated 11.09.2003 and, in fact, the petitioner was not a party before the Supreme Court in the case in question. From the perusal of those orders, Supreme Court observed that there could not have been any material before the Supreme Court about the disproportionate assets case of the petitioner beyond the Taj Corridor Project case and there was no such question or issue about disproportionate assets of the petitioner. In view of the same, giving any direction to lodge FIR relating to disproportionate assets case did not arise.
The Supreme Court thus came to the conclusion that in the absence of any specific direction from the Supreme Court in the order dated 18.09.2003 or any subsequent orders, the CBI had exceeded its jurisdiction in lodging FIR No. R.C. 0062003A0019 dated 05.10.2003. The impugned FIR was without jurisdiction and any investigation pursuant thereto was held illegal and was accordingly quashed. The writ petition was thus allowed.