Lalu Prasad convicted, sent to jail

Lalu Prasad convicted, sent to jail

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) president Lalu Prasad and 44 others were convicted by a special CBI court in Ranchi on Monday in the fodder scam case.

 Bihar former chief minister Jagannath Mishra was also among those convicted.
CBI judge P K Singh, while pronouncing them guilty, awarded three years of imprisonment to eight accused, including BJP leader Dhruv Bhagat and retired IAS officer K Arumugam. The remaining 37 accused will be sentenced on October 3.

Though the eight accused later secured bail from the court, Lalu, Mishra and others were taken into judicial custody and sent to the Birsa Munda Jail in Ranchi. Lalu has been charged under Sections 420, 465, 468, 471 and 120B/34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 13 (1/b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. After his conviction, Lalu now faces a jail term which could vary from three to seven years.

According to sources in Ranchi, hearing the verdict, Lalu was crestfallen for a while. But, the maverick leader he is, Lalu soon reconciled himself to it and appealed to the judge to pronounce the quantum of punishment, too, so that he could file a petition in the high court before it closes for Durga Puja vacation on October 4.

The judge, however, fixed October 3 as the day when sentencing would take place through video-conferencing.

Lalu and octogenarian Mishra (who is not keeping well) were sent to jail, where the latter’s health deteriorated further.

Mishra was eventually shifted to the Rajendra Indian Institute of Medical Science for treatment. Mishra’s son, Nitish Mishra, is a Cabinet minister in the Nitish Kumar regime. “We respect the court verdict. But we will move the high court, challenging the CBI court order,” he said.

Lalu’s son, Tejaswi Yadav, who had flown with his father to Ranchi on Sunday, echoed similar sentiments. “This was expected. Now we will challenge the verdict in the high court,” said Tejaswi, who is being groomed for a larger role in the party once he attains the age of 25.

The much-publicised fodder scam came to light in 1996 — an estimated embezzlement of funds to the tune of Rs 950 crore.

The case pertains to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore from the Chaibasa treasury using fake bills for fodder purchase. The accused include the two former Bihar chief ministers—Lalu and Mishra, six retired IAS officers, JD-U MP Jagdish Sharma, BJP leader Dhruv Bhagat and 35 others.

It was alleged that the accused, including animal husbandry department officials, in connivance with the suppliers cheated the department by supplying fodder, medicine and other articles only on paper. Politicians and bureaucrats were alleged to have received kickbacks in return for protecting the scamsters.

In July this year, Lalu had sought transfer of the fodder scam case from the CBI court to another special court. He pleaded that since CBI judge P K Singh, who was hearing the case, was a relative of JD-U minister P K Sahi, he (Lalu) might not get justice. But his arguments were eventually dismissed by the Supreme Court last month.
Out of the 53 fodder scam cases, judgment has been delivered in 44 cases, leading to the conviction of the accused. Of the remaining nine cases, Lalu is accused in five, which are under different stages of trial.

It was the Comptroller and Auditor General who first detected fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 950 crore from the treasuries of undivided Bihar in the late ’80s and early ’90s. From 1992 to 1995, the Lalu government never tabled this report in the legislature. The scam came to light only when Lalu tabled it on the floor of the House in December 1995. The then deputy commissioner of West Singhbhum, Amit Khare, was the first IAS officer to follow up on the CAG report, which had detected fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury.

The first FIR was lodged on January 24, 1996. The CBI numbered the case RC 20/A/1996 when it took over the fodder scam probe on March 19, 1996, as per high court orders.

Monday's verdict came after 17 years of trial.

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