In a major blow to the Bihar’s Yadav clan, a special CBI court on Saturday convicted former state Chief Minister Lalu Prasad and 15 others in a fodder scam case 21 years after it had surfaced, while acquitting six others including another former chief minister Jagannath Mishra.
Special judge Shivpal Singh pronounced the verdict in a packed courtroom in the case pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from the Deoghar Treasury between 1991 and 1994.
There were 34 accused in the case and 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.
The CBI judge first read the six names who were acquitted. The acquitted people include Mishra, former Bihar Minister Vidya Sagar Nisad and then Public Accounts Committee chairman Dhruva Bhagat.
The court will pronounce the quantum of sentence on January 3.
In another setback to the family, the Enforcement Directorate today filed a chargesheet against Lalu’s daughter Misa Bharti and her husband.
ED counsel Nitesh Rana filed the charge sheet before the court of Special Judge N K Malhotra.
The probe agency had earlier attached a Delhi farmhouse in connection with its money laundering probe against Bharti and her husband, Shailesh Kumar.
Lalu and Mishra are already convicted in a fodder scam case in 2013 and are out on bail. Both are accused in four fodder scam cases. The trial in two other cases is going on in special CBI courts of Ranchi.
The farmhouse, located at 26, Palam Farms in south Delhi’s Bijwasan area was attached provisionally under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
After the court’s verdict today, RJD supremo Lalu was immediately taken into the police custody and was taken to Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Central Jail.
Soon after the court’s verdict, Lalu’s younger son Tejashwi Yadav that the fodder scam verdict depicts a conspiracy by BJP and Bihar CM Nitish to defame the RJD chief.
“We will challenge the verdict in the High Court. The process of bail will take place once the High Court is opened. Today`s conviction shows a conspiracy by the BJP and Nitish Kumar to defame Lalu Prasad and put him behind bars. This is not the final judgment as we still have High Court and Supreme Court and the final verdict will be given by the Apex Court,” Tejashwi said.
Meanwhile, senior RJD leader Jagdanand Singh said the party was united and waiting for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, when its workers and leaders would fulfil the dreams of Prasad, who fought for social justice.
“The party will continue with its fight and struggle for social justice, right from the streets to Parliament, under the leadership of Tejashwi Prasad Yadav,” he said, while appealing to the partymen to register their protest in a peaceful manner.
Besides Lalu Prasad, the court convicted political leaders Jagdish Sharma and R K Rana, IAS officers Beck Julius, Phoolchand Singh and Mahesh Prasad, and government officials Krishna Kumar and Subir Bhattacharya. The others are suppliers/transporters Tripurari Mohan Prasad, Sushil Kumar Sinha, Sunil Kumar Sinha, Raja Ram Joshi, Gopinath Das, Sanjay Agarwal, Jyoti Kumar Jha and Sunil Gandhi.
In 1996, the Patna High Court ordered an inquiry into the fodder scam cases and a charge sheet in the Deogarh treasury case was filed against 38 people on October 27, 1997. Eleven of them died and three turned approvers while two other accused confessed and were convicted in 2006-07.
The accused faced charges under various sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Ahead of the verdict, in Patna, Lalu Prasad’s wife and former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi had organised a special ‘puja’ at her official residence — 10, Circular Road. His elder son Tej Pratap, a former Health Minister, also visited a temple in the morning to pray for his father.
On September 30, 2013, Lalu Prasad, Jagannath Mishra and several others had been convicted in another case pertaining to illegal withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa Treasury in the early 1990s. Today’s conviction is the second in the scam.
The Supreme Court had granted bail on December 13 that year to Lalu Prasad, who had been behind the bars for two months. He had moved the apex court challenging the order of the Jharkhand High Court which had dismissed his bail plea.
Lalu faces another three fodder scam cases for illegal withdrawal of Rs 3.97 crore from the Dumka Treasury, Rs 36 crore from the Chaibasa Treasury and Rs 184 crore from the Doranda treasury.
Lalu has been convicted in the case relating to embezzling of more than Rs 89 lakh from the Deoghar Treasury between 1991 and 1994. The fodder scam involved the embezzlement of about Rs 900 crore from the Bihar exchequer.
The corruption scheme involved the fabrication of ‘vast herds of fictitious livestock for which fodder, medicines and animal husbandry equipment was supposedly procured over a period of 20 years’.