The CBI has booked former chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi Leela Samson, also a renowned Bharatnatyam dancer in a case of corruption and criminal conspiracy for allegedly spending exorbitantly in the renovation of Koothambalam auditorium of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, officials said Saturday. Officials have alleged that Samson and four others involved created “alleged irregularities” leading the expenditure up to Rs 7.02 crores.

The chief vigilance officer of the culture ministry filed a complaint against Samson and others in May 2017 in which it said that the Foundation spent an amount of Rs 7.02 crores in what was an “unfruitful expenditure” in the renovation. On the basis of that complaint, the agency registered a case against Samson on Thursday. The complaint also noted that the work orders for the renovation were awarded at a higher rate through Consultant Architect M/s CARD (Centre for Architectural Research and Design) without following General Financial Rules, 2005, HT reports.

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“The contractors were given work order on nomination basis without following the open tender process. In all 28 works related to the renovation of the Koothambalam viz. Civil work, Anutone Board fixing work, electrical work, HVAC work, slab cooling work, sound system, stage lighting, sculpture etc., were carried out with a total expenditure of Rs 7.02 Crores,” the FIR states, TNM quoted.

At the time of renovation, Samson was the Director of Kalakshetra Foundation. She ran the institution for seven years during which it became an institution of national significance and fell under the culture ministry as an autonomous organisation. She was also appointed as the 12th chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in August 2010. The complaint also involves T S Murthi, the then Chief Accounts Officer at Kalakshetra Foundation; S Ramachandran, Accounts officer at Kalakshetra Foundation; V Srinivasan, Engineer at Kalakshetra Foundation and Ravi Neelakantan, Proprietor, CARD and Chennai Engineers.

Samson quit from her post in 2014, a year before her term had to end giving way to rumours that the NDA government didn’t give her the freedom to function. In March 2011, she also became the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification – a post she resigned from in January 2015 after the Appellate Film Certification Tribunal cleared a film on Dera Sacha Sauda leader Ram Rahim, Messenger of God, despite the CBFC not clearing it.

At the time of renovation, Samson was the Director of Kalakshetra Foundation. She ran the institution for seven years during which it became an institution of national significance and fell under the culture ministry as an autonomous organisation.

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The Foundation receives funds from the culture ministry every year for its developmental activities. In 1985, it built an auditorium in its premises called Koothambalam for stage performances. Then in 2006, the decision of renovating it was made for which the funds were discussed in various financial committees as well as governing body board meetings.

In 2009, Samson formed a civil works committee to prepare necessary estimation based on the recommendations of the governing board calling for tender and sent it to the finance committee for approval. Samson had to step down from the organization after allegations of irregularities surfaced in 2012.

Picture credit: India Today

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