After years of twists and turns in the ‘case’, it now seems there is no case, after all, against Mulayam Singh Yadav. Six years after the Supreme Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct a preliminary inquiry into disproportionate assets allegedly acquired by Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his two sons, the agency is yet to lodge a Regular Case (RC), without which it can’t investigate the complaint.
Neither the CBI nor the Supreme Court come out smelling of roses. While CBI director Ranjit Sinha last week ordered an inquiry into the alleged leak of official reports related to the case, he has also reportedly sent back the file with an admonitory noting that seeks an explanation for why a ‘regular case’ was never registered. Sinha has asked investigators to probe all aspects of the case.
Shorn of officialese, what it means is that, as of now, there is actually no case against the former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Indeed, newspapers have been bursting with reports that the agency is about to file a closure report or a ‘summary’ and argue that no case is made out against the SP chief and his sons. The CBI, of course, has officially denied the reports and held that a decision in the matter is still awaited.
A preliminary enquiry (PE) report was indeed prepared by the CBI following the SC’s direction in March 2007 and submitted to the court. This in fact concluded that prima facie a disproportionate assets case was made out, but the agency thereafter dithered in taking the case to a logical conclusion. The court too failed to give clear directions. What’s more, the agency was told by the then solicitor-general, G. Vahanvati, that it was wrong to club the assets of the sons and the daughter-in-law with Mulayam’s, as all of them filed separate income-tax returns and had separate sources of income.
Vahanvati, back in 2008, examined the income and expenditure statements of Yadav senior and, after matching it with the assets acquired by him, offered the formal opinion that he had a legitimate fund surplus and could legitimately acquire assets. Disposing of Mulayam’s review petition in December 2012, the apex court adopted Vahanvati’s logic of separating the family members’ incomes and directed the CBI to drop his daughter-in-law from the ambit of the investigation.
Advocate Vishwanath Chaturvedi, who had filed the PIL in 2005, argues that most people park their disproportionate assets with close relatives; and if even immediate family members are to be left out of the ambit of the investigation, few cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act can be established in court. He also claims that according to the CBI manual, a PE should have led logically to an RC within a reasonable period of time, usually a few months, if a prima facie case is made out.
But although the agency claimed in the PE that there were sufficient grounds to lodge an FIR—which an RC, in CBI parlance, is equivalent to—and proceed with the investigation, no RC was ever registered by the CBI in the case. The agency was helped along the way by the apex court’s order in March 2007, which directed it to submit its findings to the Union government and act according to its directions. On the basis of Vahanvati’s opinion, the Union government ‘directed’ the CBI to drop the inquiry in 2008.
But while disposing of the review petitions in December 2012, the SC felt that its bench had erred in 2007 while directing that the CBI report its findings to the Union government. It, therefore, modified the order and directed the agency to act independently.
Chaturvedi, meanwhile, has alleged that the UPA, which needs the support of the SP in Parliament, would not allow the investigation to proceed. His claim that there is a threat to his life has further muddied the water. An eminently avoidable mess, the controversy has put a question mark on all disproportionate assets cases.