The Supreme Court on Friday said it was prime facie of the view that Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati should pay back public money that was spent on installing statues of herself and elephants – her party’s symbol – in Uttar Pradesh’s Noida and Lucknow, PTI reported.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, however, said this was a tentative view and that the matter will be taken up for final hearing on April 2. “We are of the tentative view that Mayawati has to deposit the public money spent on her statues and party symbol to the state exchequer,” the bench observed, according to NDTV. “Pay all the money from your pocket.”
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Satish Chandra Misra told ANI that it was only the Supreme Court’s observation and not an order. “The only thing ordered was that the next hearing will be in April,” he said, according to ANI.
The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed by two advocates who argued that public money should not be utilised to build one’s own statues and for propagating a political party, according to NDTV.
Between 2007 and 2012 when Mayawati was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the government had built memorials for Dalit leaders, including the founder of Bahuaj Samaj Party Kanshi Ram, and of herself besides the party’s election symbol – elephants. The memorials and statues were built at a cost of over Rs 2,600 crore in Lucknow, Noida, and a few other places in the state.
Last month, the Enforcement Directorate searched six locations in Lucknow in connection with an alleged scam in building the memorials for Dalit leaders across the state. Enforcement Directorate officials said the investigation agency has filed a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act based on a complaint by the state’s vigilance department in 2014.
The complaint alleged irregularities which “resulted in the loss of over Rs 111 crore to the government exchequer and unlawful gain to public servants and private individuals”.