Ending the RJD’s hopes of Lalu Prasad walking out of jail on November 9, a day before the Bihar results, the Jharkhand High Court Friday deferred his bail plea hearing in a fodder scam case till the end of the month.
The hearing was posted to November 27 after the CBI sought more time to file a reply in the matter.
Lalu has been in custody since two years, and was not able to participate in the Bihar elections for the first time in four decades. Son Tejashwi Yadav has been saying at rallies that Lalu will be out of jail on November 9, and it will be Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s “vidaai (farewell)” the next day.
The case pertains to the withdrawal of Rs 3.76 crore from the Dumka treasury between December 1995 and January 1996 using “forged documents”, and showing “fictitious supply of animal feed”. Dumka is in Jharkhand, but at the time was part of undivided Bihar.
On October 9, the High Court had granted bail to Lalu in a case related to alleged illegal withdrawal of money from the Chaibasa treasury, on the ground that he had spent more than half the duration of his seven-year jail term.
On Friday, at a virtual hearing, Lalu’s lawyer Kapil Sibal argued he had served “42 months and 26 days” in judicial custody in the Dumka case, more than half his time, making him eligible for bail, as per a PTI report.
The CBI doesn’t agree with this, and said it would oppose bail on these grounds.
The trial court had found Lalu, the Bihar chief minister at the time, guilty in the Dumka case under IPC sections of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, and under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act. On March 24, 2018, the CBI said the trial court had sentenced Lalu to seven years each under the PC Act and IPC cases, to “run consecutively”. The RJD president was sent to Birsa Munda Jail in Ranchi in December 2018, though he has spent most of the time since at the Jharkhand capital’s Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS).
On Friday, RIMS submitted report on Lalu’s condition, while the court pulled up Superintendent of Birsa Munda Jail and IG, Prisons, for not submitting a report sought by it.
RJD spokesperson Mrityunjay Tewari told The Indian Express: “We had been eagerly waiting for Laluji’s bail today. It would have been a perfect Diwali gift, especially as we are confident of forming the next government.”
He added that he didn’t want to say more on a matter that is in court. “Our leader will get bail and, when it happens, we will celebrate.”
The 10, Circular Road, residence of Lalu in Patna was crawling with candidates on Friday, even as CM candidate Tejashwi looked relaxed. An RJD insider said: “We are not going overboard with any pre-result celebration. But there is great excitement all around. There is another level of energy.”
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