Friday, August 22, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

CBI directed to quiz five top officials in Taj corridor case
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 21
Indicating that at least five important persons, including some high-ranking officials of the Uttar Pradesh Government were involved in sanctioning the controversial Rs 175 crore Taj Heritage Corridor project in Agra as per the CBI’s interim report, the Supreme Court today directed the agency to interrogate them immediately and verify their assets.

“On the basis of the report, we direct the CBI to depute a higher officer to immediately interrogate the four to five or more persons who were involved in the decision making process to grant the contract for the project,” a Bench comprising Mr Justice M.B. Shah and Mr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan in its order said.

The direction was given by the Bench after examining the CBI report, which it had sought to know the progress of the inquiry ordered by it on July 16 into the “conduct” of some Uttar Pradesh government officials in sanctioning the project in clear violation of rules and court’s direction for maintaining the ecological balance around the Taj Mahal.

The court, however, did not reveal the names and ordered that the “confidential” CBI report should be kept in a sealed cover. But it indicated that the persons named by the agency “weilded authority” in the state.

Rejecting the CBI’s request for giving it at least four months’ time to complete the probe, the court said these persons needed to be questioned immediately without giving them any opportunity to “manoeuvre” as they had released Rs 17 crore for the project at one go. The agency was asked to submit its final report by September 11, when the matter will be taken up for hearing again.

Stating that the CBI has found “interpolated” writings on certain papers relating to the project, the court also ordered the Director of Forensic Department to get all such documents examined by the handwriting experts and submit a report by the next date of hearing.

The court did not agree with the suggestions by the Additional Solicitor-General Altaf Ahmed, appearing for the Centre and advocate Krishan Mahajan, appointed to assist the court, for giving an order to register an FIR in the case and held that such a direction without a thorough inquiry would not be proper.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the project was sanctioned and handed over to the National Project Construction Corporation (NPCC), a Union Government agency, by the Uttar Pradesh government in October/November last year without any study report on its effect on the safety of the Taj as well as environment and ecology in the area.

The project envisaged reclaiming of 70 acres from the Yamuna bed between the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort to create a Heritage Corridor, with shopping plazas, amusement parks and restaurants.

The CBI had reportedly questioned suspended Uttar Pradesh Principal Secretary (Environment) R.K. Sharma and some other officers in this connection before submitting its interim report to the court. The Mayawati government had put the blame on Sharma for sanctioning the project.

According to the CPCB report, the width of the river, due to reclaiming of the land from its bed, would be reduced to 570 m which would be bare minimum required resulting in the building of more pressure of water which would pose threat to the Taj and other important Mughal period monuments.

Our Lucknow Correspondent adds: The Supreme Court directive to the CBI to interrogate “five big people, including one who wields authority” in Taj Heritage Corridor case has sent shivers down the spine of the state administration with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati holding a meeting with senior officials in her 5, Kalidas Marg residence here today ostensibly to “meet the crisis”.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
123 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |