Supreme Court reserves ruling on Lalu's graft case
The Supreme Court reserved its verdict on whether the Bihar government can challenge the acquittal of former railway minister Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi in a corruption case probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.delhi Updated: Mar 10, 2010 23:08 IST
The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its verdict on whether the Bihar government can challenge the acquittal of former railway minister Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi in a corruption case probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
A bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, Justice RM Lodha and Justice BS Chauhan reserved the ruling after a marathon hearing of the arguments for the entire day from various parties.
The case against Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi involved accumulation of wealth far exceeding their legal income during their tenure as the chief ministers of Bihar. The husband-wife duo separately ruled Bihar for nearly 15 years.
In the wake of the fodder scam, involving illegal and unauthorized withdrawal of billions of rupees from the state exchequer between 1992 and 1997, the CBI had booked the couple on charges of amassing property worth Rs 4.6 million above their legal income.
Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi, however, were acquitted of all charges by Special CBI Judge Muni Lal Paswan Dec 18, 2006.
The Bihar government, in early 2007, moved the Patna High Court challenging their acquittal contending that owing to a Congress-led government at the centre, that had the support of the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal, the CBI was not keen to challenge the acquittal.
Appearing for the Bihar government, senior counsel L Nageshwar Rao asserted that the state has full right to challenge the acquittal as it was the state's exchequer that had been defrauded by the illegal and corrupt acts of omission and commission by the couple.
Rao contended that merely because the state government got the corruption case against the two probed by the CBI, it did not forfeit its right to challenge their acquittals.
"It is rather the obligation of the state of Bihar to ensure that offenders are brought to book," he added.
Rao also pointed out that under section 378 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the state government is legally entitled to challenge the acquittal.
Appearing for Lau Prasad and Rabri Devi, former union law minister Ram Jethmalani contended that the state government has no role whatsoever in a case probed and prosecuted by the CBI.
He asserted that under section 378 (2) of the CrPC, the CBI or the central government was the sole authority to probe the case. The CBI counsel also supported Jethmalani's argument.