Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad was among the most law-abiding incarcerated VIP prisoners in Jharkhand, prison records over a 15-year period show, although he had access to five-star comforts during the time he spent in jail in connection with the fodder scam.
Sources pointed out that Lalu’s conduct was in sharp contrast to the other VIP prisoners, most of them political leaders, who allegedly try to escape the rigors of prison life citing health reasons.
The practice returned to the limelight recently when the Jharkhand high court took suo motto cognisance of media reports and directed the state government to find out how former Congress minister Chandrasekhar Dubey, arrested on charges of manhandling a police official, landed up at the VIP cottages of the Ranchi-based Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS).
A study into the records of political prisoners who have availed the VIP facilities at RIMS in the last 15 years shows a list of more than 25 prisoners, mostly politicians, including former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra and ex-Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda.
The list doesn’t include Lalu Prasad, who was convicted in the multi-crore fodder scam and sent to the Birsa Munda Central Jail where he spent three months in 2013.
Usually, all influential prisoners in Jharkhand find an easy escape route from jail by complaining of some kind of severe health ailment that cannot be treated inside by the jail doctors.
Once referred to RIMS for better treatment, they end up landing at the VIP cottages, which is no less comfortable than a home.
Here they meet and spend quality time with family and friends, attend to supporters and run their day-to-day affairs without any interruption from the jail authorities or police.
However, Lalu Prasad did enjoy special facilities by dint of his VIP status inside the jail.
Prisoner number 3312 in jail, Lalu Prasad had a TV set in his cell and even two personal cooks who served him food of his choice unlike common prisoners who have to survive on whatever the jail provides.
Lalu’s menu in jail gave him the option of choosing from mutton, chicken and fish besides ghee and seasonal fruits.
Besides, he was also allowed extra hours for meeting visitors and taking a stroll in the premises. He could also seek permission for newspapers, books and magazines from outside.
“My client always abided by the jail rules and never used powers of his good office to benefit himself,” said Lalu’s Ranchi-based lawyer Prabhat Kumar.
A former Jharkhand minister and Madhu Koda’s cabinet colleague, Kamlesh Kumar Singh arrested along with Koda on corruption charges in 2009 had spent almost a year at the RIMS cottage on treatment grounds. While still in the hospital, he got bail and walked free.
More recently, AJSU legislator Kamal Kishore Bhagat -- convicted on charges of attempted murder and extortion -- fell ill soon after reaching the jail and was shifted to RIMS hospital within two days. He too got bail soon and walked out from hospital.
Jail superintendent Ashok Choudhary refused to comment on the issue though legislator Pradeep Yadav of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) said it was not correct to blame politicians for health issues.
“Shifting an ailing inmate to a hospital either in Ranchi or Delhi is solely at the discretion of jail doctors. We should not comment on their advice and decision as it is a technical matter and directly related to the life of an individual,” Yadav added.