NEW DELHI, Jan. 6: Former Bihar Chief Minister and RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was on Saturday sentenced by a special CBI court to three-and-a-half years of rigorous imprisonment (RI) in a fodder scam case. Jagdish Sharma, the then Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman, and former RJD leader R K Rana, were sentenced to seven years and three-and-a-half year RI respectively.
Three IAS officials – Phool Chand Singh, Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad – too were awarded RI for three-and-a-half years. Two other officials, Subir Bhattacharjee and Dr Krishna Kumar, were sentenced to a three-and-a-half year and seven-year RI respectively. Among the suppliers and transporters, Raja Ram Joshi, Sunil Kumar Sinha and Sushil Kumar Sinha were awarded three-and-a-half year RI. The remaining five – Tripurari Mohan Prasad, Sanjay Agarwal, Sunil Gandhi, Jyoti Jha and Gopinath Das – were handed a seven-year term.
Yadav was also imposed a cumulative fine of Rs 5 lakh in connection with charges under the Indian Penal Code and Rs 5 lakh pertaining to charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Failure to pay the fine will attract a further RI of six months. Fines were also slapped on the three IAS officials to the tune of Rs 10 lakh (cumulative); Rs 5 lakh for Joshi and Sunil and Sushil Sinha. Besides, a fine of Rs 10 lakh was imposed on the five suppliers and contractors.
Reacting to the order, Lalu’s son Tej Pratap Yadav said they won’t be cowed down. “We are confident that he (Lalu Yadav) will get bail. We have full faith in the judiciary. We are not going to be cowed down,” the former Bihar minister said. Moreover, soon after the sentencing, a tweet went out from Lalu’s official account, saying, “Rather than practising BJP’s Simple Rule – “Follow us or We will Fix you”. I will die happily fixing myself for Social justice, harmony & equality.”
Earlier, the hearing of argument over the quantum of sentence of all the convicts was concluded through video-conferencing at 2 pm, following which special CBI Judge Shivpal Singh delivered his order at 4 pm. The conclusion of the process of sentencing, which had started on January 3 and kept getting deferred due to various reasons, brought curtains to the suspense over whether or not Yadav would get bail from the lower court.
“We will go through the judgment and approach the Jharkhand High Court for bail. Had the sentence been of less than three years, our client could have got bail immediately,” Yadav’s counsel Prabhat Kumar said. In this particular case, Yadav has already undergone incarceration for nearly one year. The defence had prayed for lenient punishment, primarily on health grounds. However, the CBI had argued the convicts should be handed out maximum sentence, as the matter involved public ethics and looting of public money.
The case, RC-64/96, pertained to fraudulent withdrawal of money to the tune of over Rs 89 lakhs from Deoghar treasury between 1991 and 1994, when Yadav was the Chief Minister and also handled the Finance Department. In all, the CBI had made 38 persons accused in the case. However, 11 had died during the trial and two had pleaded guilty. A trial was initiated against 22. On December 23, the court acquitted another former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra and five others, while convicting Yadav and 15 others on the same day.
Additionally, the court has also issued summons to sitting IAS official Sukhdeo Singh, a Jharkhand cadre officer, who is currently Additional Chief Secretary, and former Bihar DGP D P Ojha, for initiating prosecution against them in the case.
In the wake of the court’s ruling, senior members of the RJD met on Saturday to discuss the party’s strategy and the “emerging political situation.” The meeting was chaired by former Bihar CM and Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi. RJD sources said the party would appeal against the verdict. “We will move HC against Lalu Prasad’s conviction and appeal for bail after studying the court verdict,” said his son and former Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav.
According to the party’s state president Ramchandra Purve, Tejashwi Yadav, Leader of Opposition and Lalu’s son, is likely to become the party’s CM face for the 2020 Assembly post. A controversy emerged during the hearing on Thursday after the CBI judge Shivpal Singh claimed that he had received phone calls from Lalu’s men – a charge dismissed by the RJD leaders.
In the mid-90s, the embezzlement of government treasury funds to non-existent companies for the purchase and supply of cattle fodder in Bihar was unearthed. It happened during the Lalu’s tenure as chief minister, forcing him to resign from the post. In the first fodder scam case, Lalu was sentenced to five years in jail in 2013. Due to his conviction, he was debarred from contesting elections for 11 years. TIE