The Supreme Court has told former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati that she has to compensate the state exchequer for constructing statues of her and her party symbol, elephant, across the state with public money.
The shocker from the court was least expected as the case was last heard on September 15, 2017, after an advocate, Ravi Kant, had filed a public interest litigation in 2009.
When the matter, listed for final disposal, came up before a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Friday, the counsel for Mayawati, senior advocate and Member of Parliament SC Mishra, waited for his turn to seek adjournment till May.
Before a startled Mishra could speak another word, the bench remarked, “Personally we feel what you have done is not right. We are of the view primarily that Ms Mayawati should reimburse all the money she has spent out of public exchequer on construction of elephants.”
The court posted the matter for hearing on April 2, asking Mayawati’s counsels to be prepared to argue their case.
The elephant is the election symbol of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is led by Mayawati. The petitioner, Ravi Kant, had pleaded before the court that such glorification of a party symbol and of politicians with public funds should not be permitted.
He demanded that Mayawati and her party compensate the amount spent towards the construction of the statues.
The court’s remark has piled on the woes for Mayawati, who recently faced raids by the Enforcement Directorate over a 2013 FIR against her following a Lokayukta report that she had brazenly misused Rs 1,400-crore public wealth to build memorials and statues dedicated to her and other Dalit icons when she was UP’s chief minister during 2007-12.
The PIL petitioner himself had sought information on the amount spent on construction of the statues dedicated to Mayawati and her party symbol.
A Right To Information response on May 26, 2009 had said that Mayawati’s statues had been put up at five places in Lucknow and Kanpur, while the statue of her mentor, BSP founder Kanshi Ram, were constructed at five other places in the two cities. The total expenditure was Rs 6.68 crore, the RTI reply stated.
But the petitioner dug out more details from the state department, and found that hundreds of crores of rupees had been spent to instal massive elephant statues in Lucknow and Noida as well. He felt that such fanciful spending was not justified in a state like UP which remains among the Bimaru states, with lowest human development index as per the 2001 Census.