SC rejects Lalu petition,wants trial finished

A Bench led by CJI P Sathasivam held there was no “valid and acceptable reason”

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published: August 14, 2013 1:39 am

In a setback to RJD chief Lalu Prasad,the Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed his petition to transfer a fodder scam trial,involving him as an accused,from a Ranchi court to some other court due to alleged possibility of bias of the trial judge.

A Bench led by CJI P Sathasivam held there was no “valid and acceptable reason” for shifting the trial on the basis of Lalu’s apprehensions. It gave the trial court 20 days to wrap up the proceedings and deliver the verdict in the case “as early as possible”.

If convicted,Lalu will be disqualified as an MP,in accordance with the recent apex court verdict,mandating immediate disqualification of a lawmaker after conviction in an array of cases,including corruption cases. It is only after Lalu succeeds in getting his conviction — and not just his sentence — stayed by a superior court that his membership would be restored.

The Supreme Court’s final word can also be seen as an anti-climax for Lalu,for the Bench had earlier observed it was open to shift the trial if all parties agreed. Although the CBI,despite being the prosecuting agency and the respondent in the case,chose not to oppose or argue against Lalu’s petition,it eventually got rejected. The only opposition to the petition had come from RJD MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh,whose attempt to intervene was countered by the CBI. The apex court,in its judgement,dismissed Singh’s intervention application without expressing any opinion on its merit.

The former Bihar chief minister,who is an accused in a case of alleged fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury (now in Jharkhand) in the 1990s,had raised apprehension that he may not get a fair trial and justice since the the trial judge was related to a minister in the Nitish Kumar government.

The Bench,also comprising Justices Ranjana P Desai and Ranjan Gogoi,underlined that Lalu’s objections could not entertained at the fag end of the trial after the trial court asked all parties to file their submissions and fixed July 15 for verdict. After Lalu moved the Supreme Court,it had stayed the proceedings before the trial court until further orders.

“If the appellant really had any apprehension in his mind,this could have been raised at the earliest point of time and not after the conclusion of evidence and arguments,particularly,on the eve of pronouncement of judgment. In administering justice,judges should be able to act impartially,objectively and without any bias,” said the court.

It also discarded arguments regarding the possibility of bias because of an alleged relationship between the trial judge and Bihar Education Minister P K Shahi.

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