Former Bihar chief minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad was Monday convicted in the fourth fodder scam case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of around Rs 3.5 crore from the Dumka treasury by Animal Husbandry Department officials between 1991 and 1996. He has now been convicted in four fodder scam cases with two more cases still at the trial stage.
Another former chief minister, Jagannath Mishra, was acquitted. Of the 31 accused, the court convicted 19 and acquitted 12 and will pass orders on the quantum of sentence over three days beginning March 21 through video conferencing.
RJD national spokesperson Manoj Jha said they would appeal the conviction and referred to a report by The Indian Express which stated that the CBI had overruled an objection by its Legal Wing and pressed for an FIR against Lalu Prasad in a Railways case registered last year.
“Do we need to say anything more to establish that these cases are politically motivated? It is because the BJP and its leaders know that they can’t fight Laluji, who is their main rival, and that is why they resort to such tricks,” said Jha.
In 2013, Lalu Prasad was convicted and sentenced to five years in jail in the first fodder scam case, which 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 Prasad has appealed against this conviction and has been incarcerated at the Birsa Munda Central Jail since December 23.
Special CBI Judge Shivpal Singh also acquitted four other politicians – Jagdish Sharma, former chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, R K Rana, former RJD leader and MLA, Vidyasagar Nishad, former Bihar minister and a former MLA Dhruv Bhagat. While two IAS officers – Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad were also acquitted, a third IAS officer, Phool Chand Singh was convicted.
Earlier in the day, the court had kept judgments on Lalu Prasad and a few other accused in abeyance as they were not present in court. But towards the end of proceedings, the court, observing that the accused were already in custody and that lawyers were present, pronounced its judgment.
About 30 minutes later, Lalu Prasad, admitted at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) following health concerns, was brought to the court. He was briefly produced and sought to know the quantum of sentence, after which, the court said the entire process would be completed between March 21 and 23.
Judge Shivpal Singh also suggested Lalu Prasad be referred to New Delhi after asking about his health. Lalu Prasad said that his treatment was going fine. His counsel Prabhat Kumar said, his client had not sought transfer to any other health institute. “As of now, there is no such report or any application. We will look into it only if such a situation arises,” he said.
Earlier, the special CBI court has issued summons to six persons, including CBI’s investigating officer in one of the cases, to appear before it on March 28 and directed the CBI to seek sanction for prosecution against Bihar Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, who was the then Deputy Commissioner of Dumka district, when the alleged offence occurred.
On March 15, when the court had decided to pronounce judgment in the case, Lalu Prasad had submitted a petition seeking the summoning of then Accountant General of Patna, P K Mukhopadhyay and two other officials from the same department as the accused. The court had allowed the petition on March 16, while deferring the judgment for March 17 and then for March 19.
The court has also directed the defence to seek sanction for prosecution against Mukhopadhyay and the two others – Pramod Kumar and B N Jha. While Mukhopadhyay and Jha have retired, Kumar is still a serving officer. The defence has been given one month time to submit a report to the court.
RJD national spokesperson Jha said: “All the cases against Laluji are politically motivated. We respect the judgment of the court. But there is a judicial architecture available to the citizens and we will approach the High Court. We are completely confident that the verdict will be in our favour. Also, we know that we are going to get a resounding verdict from the people; and that is why Modiji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) is worried. The BJP is worried.”