CBI court holds Lalu and 44 others guilty; Lalu convicted of corruption, criminal conspiracy and cheating
NEW DELHI (TIP): RJD chief and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad has been sentenced to five years in jail and fined Rs 25 lakh in a fodder case – RC 20 A/96 – by a special CBI court on October 3 in Ranchi. With the sentencing Lalu has also been disqualified from Parliament and has lost his Lok Sabha seat. Another former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra has been sentenced to four years in jail and fined Rs 5 lakh in the same case. Janata Dal United MP Jagdish Sharma, another accused, has also got a four-year jail term and he also loses his Lok Sabha seat. While Lalu represented Bihar’s Saran constituency, Sharma was the MP from Jehanabad. The case went on for more than 17 years. On Monday, special CBI judge Pravas Kumar K Singh held Lalu and 44 others guilty in the fodder scam case. Lalu has been convicted of corruption, criminal conspiracy and cheating. The other politicians who have been convicted and jailed are former legislators RK Rana, Dhruv Bhagat and Vidya Sagar Nishad. The sentencing also renders Lalu ineligible for contesting elections for at least six years as per a recent Supreme Court order.
Lalu was arrested and sent to Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi a few minutes after the verdict. His only hope – an ordinance and Bill to shield convicted legislators – was withdrawn by the Union Cabinet on October 2. As per a recent Supreme Court judgement a legislator convicted in a case where the minimum sentence is two years in jail will lose his/her seat immediately. Lalu was one of the 45 people facing charges in the RC 20 A/96 case and had been charged with fraudulent withdrawing Rs 37.7 crore on fake fodder bills from Chaibasa treasury in the 1990s. Chaibasa was then part of undivided Bihar and is now in Jharkhand. There were a total of 56 accused in the case. But during the trial, seven accused died, two turned approver, one admitted to the crime and one was discharged. Lalu and Jagannath are accused in a total of five fodder scam cases. Lalu quit as Bihar chief minister on July 25, 1997 when his name figured in the CBI investigations in the scam, which surfaced in 1996. After stepping down, he rather surprising pulled his wife Rabri Devi out of the “chowka” (kitchen) and made her the chief minister and continued to rule through proxy.