Taj Corridor case reverted to original bench after drama

Lucknow, Feb 25 (IANS) Much drama was witnessed Thursday in the court of the chief justice of the Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench, when a battery of lawyers vehemently opposed withdrawal of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that had sought prosecution of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for her alleged involvement in the Rs.175-crore Taj Heritage Corridor scam.

Stiff opposition by lawyers led the Allahabad High Court acting chief justice Amitabh Lala to revert the PIL to the division bench of senior Judge Pradeep Kant and Justice Shabiul Hasnain that had been hearing the case so far.

What seemed to irk the lawyers most was the ‘surreptitious’ manner in which the petitioner had moved his withdrawal application in the court, when the matter had been pending before the division bench.

The PIL sought the prosecution of Mayawati and her cabinet minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui for which former Uttar Pradesh governor T.V. Rajeshwar had declined to grant the statutory permission.

However, through the PIL, the court’s attention was drawn to the fact that the governor’s permission was not required for prosecution of those holding high public offices if they were charged for criminal offences like cheating, fraud or forgery – as in the Taj Heritage Corridor case.

‘The chief justice’s bench has no jurisdiction to hear this application when the case (clubbed with two similar petitions) was already being heard by a division bench,’ argued advocates C.B. Pandey and Rohit Tripathi, backed by a huge team of lawyers in a jam-packed court.

Even before acting chief justice Lala could hear the withdrawal application, advocates led by Pandey raised loud objection to the case being heard by the chief justice.

While putting up his arguments, Pandey sought to point out, ‘A PIL once filed, cannot be withdrawn at the sweet will of the petitioner.’

Alleging use of ‘undue influence and coercion’ by the state machinery, Pandey expressed the view that since the matter related to corruption at the highest level in the state, the PIL should not be withdarwn.

According to Pandey, ‘The petitioner, Mrs. Anupama Singh, committed blatant violation of the Advocate’s Act by engaging another lawyer to file her withdrawal application without seeking my ‘no-objection’, since I had been arguing the case for the past two years.’

He accused Anupama Singh (a private school teacher) of misleading the court by filing a false affidavit, in which she mentioned that she was not represented by any counsel and was appearing in person.

‘The petitioner further misled the court by concealing vital facts – that the case was part-heard and tied up with the bench comprising Justice Pradeep Kant and Justice Shabiul Hasnain, and that during the pendency of the case, she had been threatened and her services were terminated by her employer for which she had approached the same court and also got relief,’ Pandey pointed out.

Significantly, in her withdrawal application, filed before the court Wednesday, the petitioner denied any kind of pressure on her.

‘My misunderstandings and confusion with rspect to the Taj Corridor Case were removed after I read the counter affidavit submitted by the chief minister, hence I have decided to withdraw my PIL,’ she stated in her application.

The case would now be heard by the original bench March 18.

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