A bench of Justices B N Aggrawal and Aftab Alam minced no words in chiding the Maywati government for defending its move to construct the memorials when the country's largest state's GDP stood around a mere two per cent.
"As per the reports you are spending Rs 2,600 crore. Your state GDP is only around 2 per cent. We may ask the government as to how such a colossal expenditure can be incurred. We have to examine it. It (decision) cannot be arbitrary because it involves tax payers' money. You cannot spend it as you like it," the bench told senior counsel Satish Chandra Mishra appearing for the state.
Mishra, who is also a close aide of Mayawati, was at pains to explain defend the decision but drew the court's ire when he defended the move citing the memorials constructed for various national leaders including ex-Prime Ministers and four members of one family (Nehru) at an estimated cost of Rs 10,000 crore.
At this stage, the bench remarked that memorials are not there for all ex-Prime Ministers. "There is no memorial for P V Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda. Anyway, we are not concerned with political mileage. Court can act upon legal issues. It can be subject to judicial review because constitutional propriety is involved. It involves constitutional issues," the apex court said.
The counsel drew the bench's anger after he submitted that all the estimated 30-odd buildings in Lucknow city adjoining the Ambedkar Park sthal were razed before February 27, 2009, when the apex court had stayed demolition of the existing structures.
The bench pointed out the UP government did make such a claim when it had passed the stay on demolitions. "It is very surprising and strange that a battery of lawyers appeared in the matter for the state. You (govt) knew what is the subject matter of demolitions but why did the state not point out? You could have said it," the bench noted.
"Our orders have become futile if it was already demolished before our orders. It is a very serious matter. Don't take it lightly. There may be contempt or not. We want an explanation as to why this aspect (demolitions) has not been brought to our notice," the bench remarked.
The apex court was not convinced when the counsel said construction of most of the memorial structures for Kanshiram, Dr B R Ambedkar and certain other Dalit leaders had been completed and no purpose would be served in staying the construction.
"Our orders were clear that no building shall be demolished. You knew that the buildings were demolished but you did not tell us. Now, you say you have constructed and they are at the finishing stage," the bench said.