CBI registers corruption case against Jayanthi Natarajan, searches her home

Jayanthi Natarajan. File

A month later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Parliamentary election campaign, had coined the famous term "Jayanthi Tax" to insinuate that the UPA's environment minister had imposed her own "tax" to grant environmental clearances for big ticket projects.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Saturday filed the first information report or FIR against former Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan.

Reports said Natarajan has been accused by the CBI of abusing her official position to clear diversion of forest land in Jharkhand's Saranda forest without justification. A case was also registered on charges of criminal conspiracy and abuse of official position under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).

Natarajan was the environment minister from July 2011 to December 2013.

Sources said Jayanthi is overseas and is likely to return "very shortly", when she is likely to be questioned about the 2012 episode when she, as the minister of state for environment and forests, had cleared 55.79 hectares of forest land inside the core zone of Singhbum Elephant Reserve ignoring the fact that her predecessor Jairam Ramesh had rejected the proposal.

In 2015 Natarajan had quit the Congress and has since remained in political oblivion and therefore the searches on her house too came as a surprise.

2- The agency has registered its FIR against Natarajan, Umang Kejriwal, the then managing director of Electrosteel Casting Limited, and the company besides other unidentified persons.

As per the charges, the approval later granted by Natarajan was not in adherence to the recommendations of Director General Forests and directions of Supreme Court in this regard. The case is related to clearance given in 2012 for diversion of forest land in Saranda in Jharkhand's Singhbhum district, to mining company Electrosteel Casting Limited (ECL), allegedly violating the Forest (Conservation Act).

Though the then minister Ramesh rejected the recommendation made by the Jharkhand Government, the proposal was approved in 2012 during the tenure of Jayanthi Natarajan who succeeded Jayaram Ramesh. The party claimed her tirade against Rahul was a bid to cover-up the corruption allegations being levelled against her.

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