The CBI on Saturday registered a case against Leela Samson, the former chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. She is alleged to be involved in financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 7.02 crore during the renovation of the Koothambalam Auditorium. Officials gave this information to the press on Saturday.
Leela Samson was arrested at around 5 PM from her residence.
The CBI had received a complaint on 31 May 2017 about some ‘unfruitful expenditure’ of Rs 7.02 crore on the renovation of Koothambalam Auditorium at the Kalakshetra Foundation. The complainant said that the foundation officials had awarded a work order for the renovation to the architect-consultant ‘Centre for Architectural Research and Design’ (CARD) without following the General Financial Rules (GFR).
A case has been registered against other people in this case as well. According to officials, apart from Leela Samson, the then chief accounts officer of the foundation TS Murthy, accounts officer S Ramachandran, engineering officer V Srinivasan, several other engineers and the proprietor of CARD have been implicated in the case.
In his complaint, the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Ministry of Culture had alleged that the officers of the foundation violated the rules. More than Rs 7 crore was misappropriated during the renovation of Koothambalam Auditorium, the contract for which was awarded to CARD, violating the GFR.
Leela Samson was awarded the Padma Shri. She has also been the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
In 2016, this correspondent (Surajit Dasgupta) had filed an investigative report while working with Swarajya on a protégé of Leela Samson, Helen Acharya. The linked story explains how favouritism, nepotism and swindling were the orders of the day under the aegis of the much-decorated artiste.
Leela was born in Tamil Nadu. She worked in films, too. In 2005, she made her debut in the Tamil film Kanmani. She then reprised her role in the Hindi remake of the film, OK Jaanu.
Leela Samson has been close to the Nehru-Gandhi family. She was once the dance teacher of INC leader Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra.
Leela Samson has been dogged by criticisms of her stint at the Akademi for long. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad had questioned her for the CBFC certification of the Aamir Khan-starrer PK in 2014 without a cut. Two board members had resigned after the controversial film was certified, protesting against the ridicule the movie subjected Hinduism to.
In stark contrast, Leela Samson-led CBFC had agreed to force the makers of Entertainment featuring Akshay Kumar and those of Kamaal Dhamaal Malamaal with Nana Patekar in the lead role to make several cuts in their respective films because Muslims in the first case and Christians in the second had demanded those cuts.
As the media exposed one case of corruption after another during Leela Samson’s tenures in the Akademi, Kalakshetra and the CBFC, she resigned amid much drama from the board where she had been appointed by the UPA government in 2011.
Leela Samson held six key positions in the 10 years of the INC-led UPA regime.