Raising the hopes of RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s defence team, the Jharkhand High Court on Monday quashed four fodder scam cases against former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra. The CBI is using the same witnesses and evidence in the four cases as the ones in which Lalu is facing trial.
Both Mishra and Prasad were sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on October 3 last year for a fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury in 1994-’95.
A special CBI court in Ranchi had rejected Prasad’s petition that the four fodder scam cases pending against him in Jharkhand be quashed. At that time, the court had cited the High Court’s rejection of a similar petition by former RJD legislator R K Rana, who has been convicted in three of the seven cases against him.
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What gives Prasad’s lawyers hope is the fact that the High Court seems to have returned to an earlier stand, taken in the case of the current officiating Chief Secretary of Jharkhand, Sajal Chakrabarty. “When Chakrabarty moved the High Court to quash three cases against him, the court gave a judgment in his favour. Later, when R K Rana moved a similar petition, it was rejected. We were confused by this anomaly and decided to wait and watch,” said Prabhat Kumar, who appears for Prasad in the High Court. He said that Prasad would move a petition soon. “The CBI lawyers have accepted in court that the same charges and evidence will be used against Laluji in all four pending cases here,” he added.
The High Court’s judgment in the case of Mishra is also a vindication of CBI Director Ranjit Sinha’s stand that all cases against Prasad be dropped. The matter was referred to the Attorney General, with the Solicitor General eventually opining that it was a matter to be decided by the courts.
While the case against Prasad in a Patna court is still in its preliminary stages, those against him for withdrawals from the Deoghar, Ranchi, Chaibasa and Dumka treasuries are progressing in Ranchi — Prasad recorded his statement in the Deoghar case on July 14.