The CBI has filed an FIR against dancer and Padma Shri awardee Leela Samson on charges of corruption and criminal breach of trust. Samson will be probed over alleged irregularities in the renovation of a Koothambalam – a traditional performance theatre – in the Kalakshetra Foundation campus in Chennai.
According to documents, the FIR was based on a 2017 complaint received from the secretary-cum-Chief Vigilance Officer of the Culture Ministry in New Delhi over the “unfruitful expenditure of Rs 7.02 crores on renovation of Koothamabalam auditorium”. The charge being raised against Samson is that the auditorium was renovated in 2009 at “a higher rate” through a consultant “without following the General Financial Rules (GFR), 2005, when she was the director of the Kalakshetra foundation”.
Samson, the then director of the foundation, was authorised by the Governing Board (GB) to spent the amount intended for the renovation works.
The FIR says a 2011 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) found “various lapses in executing the renovation work in the Koothambalam auditorium”. It also pointed out that the renovation works were undertaken without formal sanction of the GB and the financial committee. After the GB ordered that the pending works be stopped and ordered an internal inquiry in April 2012, Samson resigned from the post of director.
Samson, who has often faced the wrath of Hindu groups in the recent past for her long-standing relationship with Gandhi family, resigned as the chief of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) a year after the Narendra Modi government took charge in Delhi. In 2014, she had stepped down from the post of director at Sangeet Natak Akademi.
In April 2016, the the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Culture Ministry probed alleged lapses in the renovation of the auditorium in the Kalakshetra campus and found certain irregularities, including “works allotted without tender, estimates not prepared, poor quality of work, interest fee advances given to the firm and substandard work”.
The report, which also indicted four more persons for their active role in the renovation works, said the foundation had spent Rs 62.20 lakh more than the estimated amount and that the contracts were awarded at a higher rate.