Lalu gets five years in prison in fodder scam
The special court of SK Shashi, last week, held Lalu Prasad and 74 others guilty in the fifth fodder case, pertaining to illegal withdrawal of ₹139.35 crore from Doranda treasury in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi.
A special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Ranchi on Monday sentenced Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad to five years’ imprisonment and imposed a ₹60 lakh fine on him in the ₹139-crore Doranda treasury case related to the fodder scam of 1996.
The special court of SK Shashi, last week, held Lalu Prasad and 74 others guilty in the fifth fodder case, pertaining to illegal withdrawal of ₹139.35 crore from Doranda treasury in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi. The scam dates back to when Jharkhand was part of Bihar.
The ailing 73-year-old politician was earlier sentenced for varying terms in four other cases related to withdrawals from the state’s Dumka, Deoghar and Chaibasa treasuries in the fodder scam, for terms ranging from three and half to seven years. He has challenged those in the Jharkhand high court and secured bail. The terms are running concurrently.
A sixth and final case, pertaining to fraudulent withdrawals from the Banka treasury in Bihar, is still under trial.
Prabhat Kumar, Prasad’s lawyer, said they would challenge the judgment in the high court and expressed confidence of securing bail for the RJD chief soon.
“We will move high court once we get the copy of the order. We will also apply for bail which we are confident of getting soon as he has already served more than half of the sentencing in jail which is grounds for bail under CrPC (the code of criminal procedure). He was in jail from December 2017 to April 2021 when he secured bail in the Dumka treasury case.”
Prasad attended the sentencing through video conferencing from Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) where he was shifted within hours after being sent to Hotwar jail post conviction in this case on Tuesday last week.
The fodder case pertains to illegal withdrawals worth ₹950 crore from various government treasuries for fictitious expenditure on fodder and other requirements for cattle during Prasad’s term as Bihar chief minister.
The Central Bureau of Investigation registered 53 separate cases in 1996 after the matter was first unearthed by then Chaibasa deputy commissioner Amit Khare. In 1997, the CBI named Prasad as an accused in the matter.
Of the 53 cases, the Doranda treasury case was the biggest one in terms of both the amount involved ( ₹139.35 crore) and the number of accused (170).
In 2005, the central probe agency framed charges against 170 people in the fodder scam. While 55 of them died during the course of trial, eight others turned approvers. Two others pleaded guilty while six of them are absconding.
Reacting to the court order, Prasad’s son and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav linked the sentencing to his party’s opposition to the Bharatiya Janata Party. “Today, he is fighting against RSS-BJP hence is facing imprisonment. We will not get scared with this,” he said, adding that if his father had allied with the BJP, he would have been termed King Harischandra (a king who was the byword for honesty in several ancient Indian epics).
Besides Prasad, the court also sentenced 39 others in the case with jail terms ranging from three to five years and fines ranging from ₹2 lakh to ₹2 crore.
“Lalu Prasad got five years jail and ₹60 lakh fine, four other convicts got jail term of five years, three got three years and four others got four years in jail. Maximum fine of ₹2 crore has been slapped against supplier Tribhuwan Prasad and another supplier Mohammed Saeed got fine of ₹1.5 crore,” said CBI counsel BMP Singh.