In a strong oral observation, the Supreme Court Friday said Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati should deposit public money used for erecting statues of herself and elephants, the party's symbol, at public places in Uttar Pradesh to the state exchequer.
The remarks were made by the apex court which was hearing a petition filed in 2009 by an advocate who had alleged that about Rs 2,000 crore was used from the state budget for 2008-09 and 2009-10, when Mayawati was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, for stalling her statues and BSP's symbol at different places.
It was contended that public money cannot be utilised for creating own statues and for propagating the political party.
On May 29, 2009 the court had issued show cause notice to the Uttar Pradesh government and Mayawati for using the public money for installing her statues and party's symbol at parks in Lucknow and Noida, adjacent to the national capital.
When the matter came up for hearing on Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: "Ms Mayawati, pay all the money back. We are of the view that Mayawati should reimburse all the money she spent."
The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna said: "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 made it clear that a tentative view was expressed by it as the matter would take some time for hearing.
"We will have it for final disposal on April 2."
Senior advocate S C Mishra, appearing for Mayawati and the BSP, requested the bench to hear the matter in May. However, the bench told Mishra, who is also the party's Rajya Sabha MP, that it was fixing a date of April 2 as it will require detail consideration.
During the pendency of the PIL, the apex court on February 22, 2010, had asked the Election Commission to examine the plea for removal of installation of these symbols from public places during the 2012 assembly polls.
EC on January 7, 2012 had ordered that statues of Mayawati and elephants be covered during the state assembly election.
The poll panel had said the measure was taken with the idea that no one should get political mileage.
When the the apex court in 2009 had decided to entertain the PIL, it had noted in its order the grievance of the petitioner that ‘hundreds of crores of public money’ is being spent by the Uttar Pradesh government for ‘personal glorification’ by erecting statues particularly of leaders who were in power.
It had also noted the petitioner's claim that the cost on installation of 60 elephant statues was Rs 52.20 crore which was not only wastage of public money but also contrary to the circulars issued by the Election Commission.
It was alleged that the Uttar Pradesh Department of Culture has almost spent 90 per cent of its budget for erecting these statues.
The PIL had alleged that the activity was being carried out as a state policy, which is arbitrary and violative Article 14 of the Constitution.
The apex court had also noted the submission that ‘the huge public funds which are otherwise meant for improving the conditions of millions of people living below the poverty line cannot be legitimately diverted for erecting statues and parks’.