A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court yesterday postponed the pronouncement of the quantum of sentence for convicted Lalu Prasad Yadav and 15 others in a fodder scam case to today.
The court had on December 23 convicted the Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and 15 others in the case.
Yesterday, Yadav, who was brought to the special CBI court in Ranchi from Birsa Munda Central Jail amid tight security, was told by judge Shivpal Singh that he would decide today whether to pronounce the quantum of punishment in the court or through video conferencing.
During an amicable exchange of words between Yadav and Singh lasting for about three minutes, Yadav told him that he was feeling very cold and that he was not being allowed to meet people in jail, according to sources. When the judge asked him if he would like the sentence to be delivered through videoconferencing in jail, Yadav politely declined and said he would like to be present in the courtroom.
“Laluji, we are getting a lot of references and calls for you. But I told your men that I would take the decision only as per the law,” said the judge to Yadav, according to sources.
With the courtroom filled chock-a-block with hundreds of Yadav’s supporters who came from across Bihar and Jharkhand, the judge appeared disturbed. At this point, Yadav reportedly asked him to keep his cool.
“I had no role in the scam. I am innocent,” said Yadav, a former CM of Bihar for two terms and former railway minister, to the judge. “You were CM at that time and also held the finance portfolio, and you did not take corrective steps quickly,” Singh retorted, asking Yadav to leave as the sentence would be pronounced on Friday.
Yadav then said: “I am also a lawyer, judgesahib”. To this, Singh snapped: “You can acquire some degrees in jail”.
The RJD leader was earlier convicted in another fodder scam case and sentenced to five years in jail in September 2013, but he came out on bail 87 days later.
According to lawyers, Lalu Prasad can be awarded three to seven years' punishment. If he gets three years' punishment, he would get bail soon after sentencing.
The CBI court had acquitted another former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra and five others in the case, relating to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 84.5 lakh from the Deoghar district treasury between 1990 and 1994. Lalu Prasad was the Chief Minister of then undivided Bihar from 1990 to 1997.
The trial in the case was completed on December 13 in the special CBI court and 10 days later, he was convicted on December 23.
There were 34 accused in the case, out of which 11 died during the trial, while one turned CBI approver and admitted to the crime. The 16 convicted people include three former IAS officials Phoolchand Mandal, Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad.
Lalu Prasad is also facing trial in three more cases relating to the fodder scam, also known as "Chara Ghotala".
(With inputs from Anand ST Das and IANS)