A special CBI court Saturday sentenced RJD chief Lalu Prasad to three and a half years’ rigorous imprisonment (RI) in a second case related to the Rs 950-crore fodder scam of the 90s. Lalu and 15 others were convicted on December 23, but were not immediately sentenced.
Lalu was convicted and sentenced to five years’ jail in 2013 in the first fodder scam case. The conviction barred him from elections for 11 years, in line with the Supreme Court order disqualifying convicts jailed for more than two years from contesting for six years after completion of their sentence. Lalu has appealed against this conviction.
Special CBI Judge Shivpal Singh Saturday sentenced Jagdish Sharma, who was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislative Assembly of undivided Bihar at the time of the alleged fraudulent withdrawals from Deoghar treasury, to seven years’ RI, and former RJD Lok Sabha MP R K Rana to three and a half years’ RI.
Three accused IAS officers, Phool Chand Singh, Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad, too, were awarded RI of three and a half years each. Two other officials, Subir Bhattacharjee and Dr Krishna Kumar, were sentenced to three and a half years’ and seven years’ RI respectively. Among the suppliers and transporters, Raja Ram Joshi, Sunil Kumar Sinha and Sushil Kumar Sinha were awarded RI of three and a half years each. The other five convicts — Tripurari Mohan Prasad, Sanjay Agarwal, Sunil Gandhi, Jyoti Jha and Gopinath Das — were each sentenced to seven years’ RI.
The case, RC-64A/96, pertained to fraudulent withdrawals to the tune of Rs 89 lakh from the treasury at Deoghar
Deoghar district in Jharkhand) using fake allotment letters and vouchers between 1991 and 1994, when Lalu was chief minister of undivided Bihar, and also held charge of the state finance department. Apart from the jail term, a cumulative fine of Rs 10 lakh — Rs 5 lakh each in connection with charges under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act — has been imposed on Lalu, the failure to pay which will attract an RI of another six months.
The three IAS officers have been fined Rs 10 lakh each, and Raja Ram Joshi, Sunil Kumar Sinha and Sushil Kumar Sinha, Rs 5 lakh each. The other five convicts, too, have been fined Rs 10 lakh each.
Hearing of arguments over the quantum of sentence for all convicts was concluded through video-conferencing at 2 pm Saturday, following which the judge fixed 4 pm as the time for the sentencing, which, too, was done through video-conferencing. The process of sentencing began on January 3, but kept getting delayed. Counsel for Lalu Prabhat Kumar said: “We will go through the judgment and approach the Jharkhand High Court for bail. Had the sentence been of less than three years, our client could have got bail immediately.”
The RJD chief has already been incarcerated for nearly a year in this case. The defence had prayed for leniency primarily on grounds of his poor health. The CBI, however, argued that the matter involved public ethics and the loot of public money, and the convicts should be given the maximum sentence.
Of the 38 accused in the case, 11 died during the trial, two pleaded guilty, and three turned approvers. On December 23, the court acquitted another former Bihar chief minister, Jagannath Mishra, and five others. The court has also issued summons to Jharkhand Additional Chief Secretary Sukhdeo Singh, and former Bihar DGP D P Ojha, for initiating prosecution against them in the case.
Separately, the court is hearing four other fodder scam cases in which Lalu is among the accused. Jharkhand High Court had stayed these trials after upholding the RJD chief’s plea of “double jeopardy”, but the Supreme Court set aside the High Court order in May 2017. Judgments in two of these cases may be pronounced in a month’s time.