A special CBI court Monday convicted former Bihar chief ministers Lalu Prasad Yadav and 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 prison after arguments on sentencing take place on Thursday. The charges against Yadav attract a jail term of up to seven years.
After the Supreme Court judgment of July 10 on disqualifying convicted legislators,the RJD chief will automatically cease to be a Lok Sabha member from Saran after the sentencing even if he is just fined for being convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He will also not be able to contest elections for six 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 in the court complex 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 was among six similar ones against Yadav and Mishra,five of which are being tried in Jharkhand. It is also the 45th of 53 fodder scam cases.
The case,a part of which has been referred to as the animal husbandry department (AHD) scam,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 as they were said to be ill. 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 court used umbrella charges against the accused to find them guilty on Monday and 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 Supreme Court transferred it to Jharkhand after the state was created.
All AHD cases were filed following Yadavs order on January 31,1996,when he was CM. The chargesheet in this case was filed in July 1997 after the case itself was registered in February 1996.
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 a 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 the district AHD officer of Chaibasa,B N Sharma. 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.
Meanwhile,the Union Cabinet is expected to discuss the issue of withdrawing the controversial ordinance that sought to overturn the Supreme Court order on disqualifying convicted lawmakers on Wednesday.
IN KODAS CELL
LALU<.b> will be in the same special enclosure that housed former chief minister Madhu Koda in an upper division barrack at Birsa Munda Central Jail.
BY EVENING,Lalu had had tea twice,along with biscuits and bread. A dinner of rotis, paneer and kheer awaited.
JAGANNATH MISHRA has been admitted to Ranchis Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences after he complained of discomfort.