Lalu held guilty in fodder scam, sent to jail
By IANS | Published: 30th September 2013 09:46 PM |
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and 44 others were Monday convicted for illegal withdrawal of millions of rupees from the animal husbandry department in Bihar, in what is popularly known as the fodder scam, by a CBI special court here. He faces a maximum of seven years in jail.
The former Bihar chief minister was convicted for offences of forgery, cheating, falsification of accounts and conspiracy, among other charges, and offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act in the 1996 case.
The quantum of sentence against Lalu Prasad and 37 convicts will be announced Oct 3. Eight convicts were sentenced Monday itself.
"Special Judge Pravas Kumar Singh found all the 45 accused guilty," a CBI lawyer told reporters.
Those convicted by the trial judge included former chief minister Jagannath Mishra of the Congress and Janata Dal-United MP Jagdish Sharma, for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.377 million from Chaibasa district treasury.
After the division of Bihar in 2000, Chaibasa district is now in Jharkhand. Some of the fodder scam cases were transferred to the new state for trial.
The case is related to alleged fraudulent withdrawal of money from the treasury during 1994-95 using forged and fabricated allotment letters and spurious bills, raised without the actual supply of medicines, instruments, maize and groundnut cake to the husbandry officer of Chaibasa, the CBI said.
The court gave eight convicts three years imprisonment and slapped fines ranging from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 5 million on them. They included former Bharatiya Janata Party legislator Dhruv Bhagat and former secretary of animal husbandry department K. Arumugam.
After the day's proceedings, Lalu Prasad was sent to Birsa Munda central jail in Ranchi.
Lalu Prasad's eldest son Tejsavi told reporters that the judgment would be challenged in a higher court.
Lalu Prasad reached Ranchi Sunday along with Tejasvi by a plane and stayed in the railway guest house.
On way to court in the morning, the former Bihar chief minister offered prayers at the Durga temple on Ranchi's Ratu Road.
RJD leaders, including Lok Sabha member Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Prabhunath Singh and Lalu's brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav, were present in the courtroom when the judgment was pronounced.
The verdict is crucial for Lalu Prasad and his political future since the central government ordinance that would have shielded convicted parliamentarians and legislators from disqualification may be withdrawn after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi trashed it.
There were a total of 56 accused in the case. But during the trial, seven accused died, two turned approvers, one admitted to the crime and one was discharged.
The court earlier fixed July 15 as the date for verdict, and asked the 45 accused to be present in the court.
But Lalu Prasad moved the Jharkhand High Court and later the Supreme Court, seeking change of the judge due to alleged bias against him. Both the courts dismissed his petition, and directed him to complete his arguments in the trial court.
The CBI registered the case March 27, 1996 on the direction of the Supreme Court and took over the investigation in the case which was earlier registered by Bihar Police at Chaibasa Police Station Feb 2, 1996.
Lalu Prasad quit the chief minister's post in 1997 when his name figured in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the scam.
Around 54 of the 61 cases were transferred to Jharkhand from Bihar. Different CBI courts have passed judgments in more than 43 cases. Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra were named as accused in five cases.
In Bihar, the authorities, apprehending trouble following the conviction of Lalu Prasad in the Ranchi court Monday, sounded an alert.
"The police headquarters has alerted all the superintendents of police and asked them to keep a close watch after the court verdict on Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam case," a police officer said.