A special CBI court on Monday convicted former Bihar chief ministers Lalu Prasad Yadav,Jagannath Mishra and 43 others in a 17-year-old fodder scam case.
Yadav and Mishra,who were sent to the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Hotwar,could be sentenced to more than three years in jail after arguments on sentencing take place Thursday.
After the Supreme Court judgement of July 10 which ordered that a legislator would be disqualified immediately if convicted for crimes with a sentence of two years or more,the RJD chief would also automatically cease to be a Lok Sabha member if sentenced to over two years. The charges against him attract a jail term of up to seven years.
On a rain-soaked day in Ranchi,a city that was still a part of Bihar the last time he was chief minister,Yadav walked into an Ambassador car with a perfunctory wave. He had learnt of his fate at about 11.10 am,with the judge informing all 45 accused that they had been found guilty soon after proceedings began.
There was some slogan shouting by politicians and their supporters who had come from Bihar but tight security by the police and paramilitary forces ensured that there was no trouble at the district court campus.
The case decided on Monday is among six similar ones against Yadav and Mishra,five of which are being tried in Jharkhand.
Referred to as the animal husbandry department (AHD) scam,it involves the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury between 1993 and 1995. The money was shown as used to buy mostly medicines and feed for cattle,but investigation by the CBI showed all documents used for withdrawal had been forged.
After finding all 45 accused guilty,special CBI Judge Pravas Kumar Singh allowed eight of them a months provisional bail as their jail terms amount to three years,so that they can appeal to the high court.
The other 34 were taken into custody and sent to jail. Three were absent on account of various illnesses. The court will hear arguments on sentencing on Thursday,following which the convicts will be informed about their sentences via video link.
Those allowed bail were former AHD minister Vidya Sagar Nishad,IAS officer and AHD secretary K Arumugam,legislator and Public Accounts Committee chairman Dhruv Bhagat and five suppliers responsible for Rs 15 lakh or less.
The umbrella charges against the accused were used to find them guilty on Monday. Individual charges will be laid out during sentencing.
All the accused have been found guilty under sections 120(b) read with 420,409,467,468,471 and 477 (a) of the IPC and under section 13(1) read with 13(2)(c)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, said Special Public Prosecutor B M P Singh,who has been in charge of the case since the beginning.
All AHD cases were filed following Yadavs order on January 1,1996,when he was CM. The chargesheet in this case was filed on June 1997.
We will appeal this conviction,we have to wait for the sentencing to decide on our strategy. The main allegation against Laluji was that he provided umbrella protection to the scamsters. The CBI also alleged that he stayed the transfer of some of them and also extended the terms of some others, said Prabhat Kumar,who has been appearing for Yadav since proceedings in the case began.
He was part of a five-lawyer team that appeared for Yadav Monday.
The key evidence against Jagannath Mishra was that he recommended the extension of the term of alleged kingpin and regional director of AHD,S B Sinha. While Mishra,as leader of opposition,recommended two years,Yadav as chief minister did so for a year.
We will appeal this decision. Let the sentencing take place, said Rakesh Kumar Jha,who was the advocate-on-record for Mishra.
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