PATNA: Former Bihar minister and senior Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Mohammad Illyas Hussain was on Wednesday acquitted by a special CBI court in a case related to the `200-crore bitumen scam, bringing some cheer to the ruling party after a series of recent setbacks. Hussain, an RJD legislator from Dehri and known for his proximity to party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, was among five accused persons who were acquitted in the two-decade-old case.
Hussain was the minister for Public Works Department (now called Road Construction Department) in the then Janata Dal government led by Yadav as chief minister. Special CBI judge Sarvjeet acquitted Hussain and three officers — Mohammed Murtaza Ahmed, Shobha Sinha and Ramadhar Thakur – and transporter Praveen Jhharia for lack of evidence, said CBI’s special public prosecutor A H Khan. The court, however, convicted Kolkata-based transporter Krishna Kumar Kedia and sentenced him to three years of rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of `4.5 lakh on him. If he fails to pay the fine, he will have to serve 18 more months in jail.
This is Kedia’s third conviction in this scam. The scam first surfaced in 1994-95 when 510 MT of bitumen worth `26 lakh was purchased by the State government from Haldia in West Bengal. It was found that the consignment, which was to be delivered to the then executive engineer of the Public Works Department, Mohammed Azma Mud Zama, never reached him. Similar cases were reported from several places across the then undivided Bihar.
The scam was first investigated by the State police, but it was handed over to the CBI in 1997 as per a Patna High Court order. Hussain was charged with ordering bitumen supplies without any genuine demand for it or without following proper requisition process.
It was alleged that loot of public money was committed under a conspiracy hatched by the officials of the State Road Construction Department, oil companies and transporters with active patronage of Hussain as the minister. “This acquittal has boosted our confidence in the judiciary. We hope cases faced by other leaders of our party will have similar fair outcomes,” said RJD leader Shakti Singh Yadav.