Fodder scam case: Lalu Prasad pleads for minimum punishment, sentencing today
RJD chief Lalu Prasad has been convicted in a case in the fodder scam, wherein Rs 900 crore from the Bihar exchequer was siphoned off under the pretext of purchasing fodder for livestock.Updated: Jan 05, 2018 23:55 IST
Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, convicted in a fodder scam case, on Friday cited ill-health and old age to seek leniency from a special CBI court in Ranchi that will pronounce quantum of his punishment on Saturday.
Former Bihar chief minister made the written plea appearing before the court of CBI judge Shivpal Singh for the sentencing hearing through videoconferencing from Birsa Munda central jail, where he has been lodged jail since his conviction on December 23.
The court has so far recorded the arguments on the quantum of punishment of 10 of the total 16 convicts, including Prasad, in the case pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from Deoghar treasury between 1991 and 1994. Prasad was chief minister of Bihar at that time.
“As per discussions held in the courtroom, there is all likelihood that the judge will pronounce the quantum of punishment to all convicts on Saturday through videoconferencing,” said Prasad’s advocate Prabhat Kumar.
Pleading for lesser punishment, Kumar argued that his client was suffering from various health ailments, including uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension and had undergone heart surgery for valve replacement.
“He is 70 years old and has been virtually punished by making him do the rounds of court and jail to pursue the 21-year-long fodder scam cases,” Kumar argued.
He added that Prasad had already been convicted and awarded five years of imprisonment in 2013 in another fodder scam case related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37 crore from Chaibasa treasury.
Kumar argued that comparing to that case, the instant case (Deoghar treasury) involved embezzlement of a meager amount and therefore punishment should also be reduced to one-fourth of what rendered to him earlier.
The CBI counsel, however, argued that considering the gravity of the case and offences committed by the accused, the court should award maximum punishment of seven years to Prasad.
Overall Rs 900 crore was siphoned off from the state exchequer between 1990 and 195 under the pretext of purchasing fodder for livestock.
The CBI court had convicted Prasad for offences of cheating with criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Under the sections, Prasad can be sentenced to a minimum jail term of one year and maximum of seven years, according to his advocate.
According to legal experts, Lalu Prasad would be able to apply for bail immediately at the lower court itself if the quantum of sentence happens to be less than three years.
The RJD chief 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.
Besides Lalu Prasad, the court heard arguments on the punishment of RJD leader R K Rana, former IAS officers Phoolchand Singh, Mahesh Prasad, former government official Subir Bhattacharya, suppliers/transporters Tripurari Mohan Prasad, Sushil Kumar Sinha, Sunil Kumar Sinha, Raja Ram Joshi, Sanjay Agarwal and Sunil Gandhi.
The court had heard pre-sentencing arguments in alphabetical order yesterday of former IAS officer Beck Julius, Gopinath Das, RJD leader Jagdish Sharma, transporter/suppliers Jyoti Kumar Jha and Krishna Kumar Prasad.
It had deferred announcing the punishment against Prasad and others for the second consecutive day on Thursday.
The court on December 23 convicted all the 16 accused in the fodder scam while acquitting six others, including former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra.
In 1996, the Patna High Court had 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, a CBI official said.
RJD leaders, meanwhile, asserted that none from the party made telephone calls to the special CBI judge at Ranchi as claimed by him but felt political opponents may have done so in the guise of RJD supporters.
The assertions were made by Shivanand Tiwary and senior party leader Jagdanand Singh.
Before deferring the pronouncement on quantum of punishment on Thursday, the judge commented in Prasad’s presence about him receiving phone calls from the RJD chief’s well-wishers.
“I came to know about it (special CBI judge Singh making the aforementioned statement in court) through media reports. I can say with certainty that no RJD leader would resort to such a step, as everyone knows that such desperation can backfire”, Tiwary told reporters in Patna.
He also said “the possibility of our political opponents making such a call in the guise of RJD supporters cannot be ruled out. They may indulge in such mischief to queer the pitch for Lalu”.
(With PTI inputs)