RJD supremo Lalu Prasad is expected to walk out of jail after the Jharkhand High Court Saturday granted him bail in a fodder scam case on the grounds of “half the sentence already served”.
Lalu had earlier got bail in three out of the four cases related to the fodder scam. On Saturday, Justice Aparesh Kumar Singh granted bail to Lalu in the Dumka treasury case, Niraj Ravi, assisting lawyer to the CBI counsel, said.
An ailing Lalu has been in judicial custody at AIIMS, Delhi, since January 23. He was shifted there from the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi, where he had been lodged since August 2018, serving most of his sentence there.
After the bail order, Lalu’s daughter and RJD MP Misa Bharati met him at AIIMS. Lalu’s son and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav asked party workers to avoid any celebrations and said Lalu would continue to stay at AIIMS because of health reasons, and due to rising Covid cases in Bihar.
Lalu’s lawyer Devarshi Mandal told PTI that they will move the Special CBI Court in Ranchi after it opens on Monday to seek his release following the high court order.
Welcoming the bail order, RJD Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Kumar Jha said, “It is especially heartening given the poor state of his (Lalu’s) health and the Covid-19 crisis. After a long period of hardship he deserves to be close to his family and recuperate fully in the comfort of his home.”
The case in which Lalu was granted bail Saturday pertains to alleged withdrawal of Rs 3.76 crore from the Dumka treasury between December 1995 and January 1996 using forged documents, for purchasing fictitious animal feed. Dumka, now in Jharkhand, was part of unified Bihar at the time.
The trial court had found Lalu, who was the Bihar CM at the time, guilty under IPC Sections dealing with criminal conspiracy, cheating, breach of trust by a public servant and forgery, and under the Prevention of Corrupt Act, in March 2018. He was sentenced to seven years.
The bail on Saturday followed deferring of several hearings on the matter by the Jharkhand High Court, including ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 Assembly polls, dashing Lalu’s hopes to campaign.
As per a PTI report, Lalu has been directed to submit his passport and not leave the country without permission.
Earlier, Lalu had got bail in three other cases in the fodder scam — related to the Deogarh, Chaibasa and Ranchi’s Doranda treasuries.
Recently, a controversy had erupted over the incarcerated Lalu allegedly speaking to Bihar BJP MLA Lalan Kumar Paswan seeking his help in defeating the NDA candidate for the Assembly Speaker’s post.
RJD leader Jha said Lalu’s return would help re-energise the party. “We look forward to his stewardship at this critical juncture when democratic politics as well as the rights of the most vulnerable are under severe duress.”
RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tewari said: “Even if our leader is available only on phone to party workers, it would be great for the party.”
A senior RJD leader said Lalu’s return to active politics would “take a lot of the burden away from Tejashwi”. “Experienced leaders have always shared a great comfort level with Lalu Prasad. Though he may not interact freely because of Covid protocols and health reasons, he would still be available to common party workers on the phone and through video links.”
Asked about the bail order, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said it was part of the judicial process.
NDA alliance partner Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) welcomed Lalu getting bail. HAM (S) spokesperson Danish Rizwan said: “Lalu Prasad has been a big leader and he means a lot to Bihar politics.”
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