The Central Bureau of Investigation has booked the former Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi and Padma Shree awardee, Leela Samson for alleged “unfruitful expenditure” in Rs 7.02-crore renovation project of Koothambalam auditorium of Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, officials said Saturday. It was alleged that the Foundation under her watch, spent Rs 62.20 lakh more than the estimated amount of Rs 7.02 crore project.
Leela Samson, who was previously a dance teacher to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, has been booked along with the then officers of the Foundation: Chief Accounts Officer TS Murthi, Accounts Officer S Ramachandran, Engineering officer V Srinivasan and proprietor of CARD and Chennai Engineers.
Samson was the Director of the Foundation between May 06, 2005, and April 30, 2012. It was felt in 2006 that the auditorium built by the Foundation in 1985 needed renovation, they said. The project aimed to upgrade the sound system of the Koothambalam auditorium, built-in 1985, followed by civil engineering works, electrical works, air conditioning and architectural features, the CBI FIR said.
The enquiry was launched in 2017 by the CBI following a complaint by the then Chief Vigilance Officer of the Culture Ministry, Mahesh Sharma.
Sharma, in his complaint, had alleged that the officials of the Foundation awarded the contract for the renovation work to consultant architect CARD in violation of General Finance Rules.
After conducting an inquiry in 2016, the Culture Ministry alleged that the officials of the 84-year old Foundation awarded the contract for the renovation work to consultant architect CARD in violation of General Finance Rules and that the Foundation spent Rs 62.20 lakh more than the estimated amount of Rs 7.02 crore project.
The ministry also alleged in the complaint that the open tender process was not followed in awarding the contracts and that Samson failed to apprise the non-official members of the Works Committee about the GFR norms and inform the Works Committee about the CAG Inspection Report received in August 2011.
Leela Samson, who is considered as one of the most influential persons of the Lutyens club, was appointed as the director of Kalakshetra by the Congress-led UPA in April 2005. She was subsequently also appointed as the chairperson of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in August 2010 and as the chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (an autonomous body that censors and certifies films in India) in April 2011.
But most importantly, she was a very close aide of the Gandhi family. She is said to have taught Bharatanatyam for some years to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. In fact, many media houses have alleged that her close proximity with the Gandhi family acted as the catalyst in her appointment as the chairperson of the censor board by UPA govt in 2011.
She received the Padma Shri (1990), the Sanskriti, Nritya Choodamani, Kalaimamani (2005) given by Government of Tamil Nadu, and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1999–2000) for contributions to Bharatanatyam.
But in the year 2012, Samson, a rabid anti-Hindu, resigned from her position as director of Kalakshetra. She also resigned from her position as chairperson of the censor board after the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal overturned her attempt to ban the movie MSG: The Messenger of God featuring Dera Sacha Sauda founder Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in a lead role and gave it clearance.