The Supreme Court on Friday granted bail to RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who is serving a five-year term in Ranchi's Birsa Manda jail for his role in the 1999 fodder scam.
The apex court bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam and justice Ranjan Gogoi noted that similarly situated other accused have already been granted bail.
Also, the bench noted, that out of five years' sentence awarded to Lalu, he has already undergone one year of the sentence in two phases - incarceration for 10 months during the course of trial and another two months since he was convicted and sentenced to jail.
The apex court directed the trial court, which heard the fodder scam case, to set conditions for his bail.
Lalu's release is not expected before Monday, as the Ranchi superintendent of police was expected to get Lalu's release order by late evening today.
Lalu's counsel Chittaranjan Sinha told HT the legal procedures required for his release could be taken up on Monday as the trial court of the CBI will remain closed on Saturday, while Sunday is an off day.
Barely an hour after the Lalu got bail, his lawyer in Ranchi, Prabhat Kumar, rushed to meet the former Bihar chief minister lodged in Ranchi's Birsa Munda central jail and began the process of securing his release at the earliest.
Around 2: 15 pm, the lawyer got the bail bond signed by Prasad and was on way to the special CBI court to submit the same.
The lawyer said he was trying his best to take his client out of jail on Friday, but that was unlikely as the court dismisses by 3.30 pm.
As per a Supreme Court ruling, which calls for disqualification of convicted members of Parliament and state assemblies, Lalu's membership as Lok Sabha MP was scrapped after he was sentenced to jail.
In his bail plea, Lalu has said the high court gave no reason while rejecting his bail application. The former Bihar chief minister said he had been treated differently because many of the co-accused had been granted bail.
"That the petitioner was the CM of Bihar, a Union railway minister and is also the leader of a political party in the country. Till his conviction, he was a sitting Member of Parliament and hence he is not likely to flee the country," Lalu's bail application said.
There were 44 accused in the case and 37 of them have already been granted bail and the bail applications of six others is under consideration of the trial court.
In an affidavit filed on Thursday, the CBI contested Lalu's contention that he was entitled to bail on the grounds that other co-accused had been granted bail. The agency said those released on bail had already completed half of their sentence period in custody, which was not the case with Lalu.
The CBI said he has spent a little more than a year in jail-10 months as an undertrial and over two months after his conviction on September 30 this year.
Lalu is also facing trial in other four cases related to the fodder scam, which are now in advanced stage of trial. The CBI said one of the cases is at the stage of recording Lalu's statement.
It also said that Lalu was part of the criminal conspiracy, had knowledge about the fraudulent withdrawals and had granted extension of service to the co-conspirators.
A CBI court in October had convicted Lalu and 44 others of fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 37.70 crore from the Chaibasa treasury and handed down the punishment through videoconferencing.
The Chaibasa treasury case is just one of the many in the Rs. 950-crore animal husbandry department scam - commonly known as the fodder scam - in undivided Bihar (prior to Jharkhand's formation).
Lalu's conviction and sentencing was the second shake-up of India's political system in a week in October this year.
Before him, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood was sentenced to four years in jail in a corruption case. Along with disqualification, he is effectively out of the electoral arena for 10 years.