Corruption is embedded in India’s collective soul. It’s marked by its ingenuity, determination and perseverance – qualities which could truly transform India if deployed for honest means.
But just as we think we’ve heard the worst of it – Noida authority chief engineer Yadav Singh being a case in point – stories like Arun Kumar Mishra’s, the Chief Engineer of the Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation (UPSIDC), still manage to evoke a sense of awe at just how far wrongdoing can be pushed.
Mishra, who is currently facing multiple corruption charges, has been a regular visitor at the Supreme Court and Allahabad High Court over the past few years because of his colourful work profile.
What makes this case even more interesting is that he’s got the who’s who of India’s elite legal luminaries defending him – former Attorney-General of India Soli Sorabjee, top lawyers Harish Salve, the current AG Mukul Rohatgi, former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramaniam, Supreme Court judge Nageswara Rao, former law minister Shanti Bhushan, Congressmen Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal.
How he pays for the services of India’s top lawyers is also under scrutiny since Mishra only draws a monthly salary of just over Rs 1 lakh while the fees his lawyers charge must be well into lakhs per day.
In retaliation to an article in the Hindustan Times titled ‘UP babu accused of corruption has Rs 1L pay, hires top lawyers Rohatgi, Sorabjee’, Mishra, through advocate Karthik Seth, has already warned the newspaper of criminal defamation charges over the report which questions just how he pays the battery of expensive senior advocates.
A master of subversion
Mishra first came to the nation’s attention in 2007 in the 2007 Tronica City scam in Ghaziabad, where officers allegedly gave away more than 400 plots at absolutely ridiculous prices.
In 2011, the CBI arrested him for allegedly operating 65 fake bank accounts with the Punjab National Bank, Dehradun.
The same year, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seized his properties on Prithviraj Road in Lutyens Delhi and Dehradun. The Prithviraj Road property alone is worth an estimated Rs 300 crore and it was bought under the name of Ajanta Merchants, a company where his wife and father are listed as directors.
That’s not the end of the list of disproportionate assets Mishra is in the dock for.
Records show that he and his family also have two palatial houses in upscale Gomti Nagar of Lucknow, 100 acres of land in Barabanki and five properties in Dehradun. In fact, between his family and him, Mishra is a member of 11 companies that were taken over and a part of five newly-formed companies.
The ED is also investigating several other properties Mishra is tied to – 60 acres of land in UPSIDC Industrial Park in Barabanki and the 52 acres of the Asia School of Engineering and Management.
His brazenness becomes even more evident with the fact that Mishra is also being investigated for forging his degrees. In fact, his high school certificates, which are with UPSIDC, has his name as Arun Kumar Mishra. But if one was to check the records lying with the UP Board in Allahabad, the name next to the same roll number for that year is ‘Arugya Kumar Misra’.
Despite many complaints over the years, no serious inquiry was ever launched.
Instead Mishra got treated to plum promotion after promotion, climbing the ladder higher by superseding deserving candidates only to help facilitate his own venture – making him and his family filthy rich.
Eradicating such deeply corruption in India is a near impossible task, but perhaps it is time the government pulled up creatures of subversion like Mishra to truly make an example of him to deter future offenders.