CARROT & STICK
Both politics and legal nuance are at play in the disproportionate assets case against the Samajwadi Party chief and his family
POLITICAL BACKGROUND THE Congress-led UPA is in power at the Centre and can afford to do without SP’S support. Mulayam Singh Yadav is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, a state which Rahul Gandhi is soon to take over as his
karmbhoomi. The battle shifts to the states for Assembly Elections 2007.
LEGAL STATUS Vishwanath Chaturvedi files a 1,000 page PIL in Supreme Court (writ petition 633 of 2005) against Mulayam and his family, alleging that they have accumulated assets disproportionate to their income. Chaturvedi claims that Mulayam’s family owns “property worth several hundred crores”.
POLITICAL BACKGROUND THE Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections are round the corner, slated for April-may 2007. By now, Rahul has taken charge of the Congress campaign in the state against both Mulayam and Mayawati. In May, Mayawati forms the government.
LEGAL STATUS On March 1, 2007, a two-judge bench of Supreme Court Justices Altamas Kabir and A.R. Lakshmanan orders CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations of disproportionate assets accumulated by Mulayam and his family. (Justice Lakshmanan retires on March 22, 2007. He is made chairman of the Eighteenth Law Commission on May 30, 2007.) The Yadavs file a review petition arguing against the CBI inquiry on March 15. Gaurav Bhatia, the Yadavs’ advocate-on-record, cites precedent to claim that “a preliminary inquiry can only be ordered by the court if there is prima facie material before the court that there is a crime committed”.
POLITICAL BACKGROUND On July 22, 2007, SP saves the Manmohan Singhled UPA Government in a trust vote in Parliament over the nuclear deal. Chaturvedi points out, “mulayam Singh was shielded from punishment as a voluntary gift to commemorate the support he extended to UPA on the crucial trust vote.” But if the SP chief thinks the case against him will be withdrawn, he is in for a surprise.
LEGAL STATUS On October 28, 2007, CBI files an Interlocutory Application (IA no. 12) requesting permission to “proceed further” in its investigation. This remains pending before the court till December 6, when CBI files another application to withdraw the IA stating “there have been further developments... In view of the legal advice and directions of the Union of India, the IA filed by CBI may be allowed to be withdrawn”. This is contested by Chatur-
vedi in court. The petitioner also claims that the security provided to him by court was withdrawn thrice during NovemberDecember 2007 by the Government. He complains to then minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal. Chaturvedi reccalls, “He (Jaiswal) told me, ‘you want to break the coalition and you want security too?’” Chaturvedi tells INDIA TODAY that in November 2007, a senior Congress Cabinet minister organised a meeting between him and then SP leader Amar Singh. “during this meeting, Amar Singh asked me to withdraw my case,” he says.
POLITICAL BACKGROUND THE 2009 Lok Sabha elections take place in April-may. Initially, SP and the Congress explore the possibility of seat sharing in Uttar Pradesh. But by end-march, talks between the two break down
LEGAL STATUS On March 30, 2009,
CBI does another U-turn and files an affidavit in Supreme Court stating that “it stands by its status report of 26.10.2007”.
POLITICAL BACKGROUND In March
2012, SP sweeps the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Are-energised Mulayam moves to the Centre after installing son Akhilesh as Chief Minister. The Congress, however, needs a pliant Mulayam to balance cantankerous allies like Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee. It also needs Mulayam’s support during the forthcoming presidential polls.
LEGAL STATUS In February 2011, the Supreme Court reserves its judgment on Mulayam’s review petition against its March 2007 order. That judgment is still pending. In the case of the CBI application, one of the two judges (Justice Cyriac Joseph) retires in January 2012. That case will have to be heard again. No date has been fixed for it.