Lalu Prasad to face more legal trouble in 2018
Lalu Prasad will have to face bigger challenges this year as the pending cases against him in the fodder scam are fast heading towards finalityUpdated: Jan 15, 2018 16:25 IST
Bihar’s veteran politician and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad will have to face bigger challenges this year as the pending cases against him in the fodder scam are fast heading towards finality, in a worrying situation for his party especially in the run-up to the 2019 general election.
With five fodder scam cases and a recently lodged railway contract case on his head, Prasad, along with co-accused, is now lined up to face the results of the two other fodder scam cases -- verdict in one is fixed for January 24 and other is expected in February or March.
Prasad had bounced back after his first conviction in the fodder scam case in September 2013 and cobbled up a grand alliance before the 2015 Bihar assembly election to trounce the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
His trouble started in May last year when the Supreme Court restored charges of corruption against him after quashing a Jharkhand high court’s order and instructed the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court to conclude the trial within nine months.
Since then, Prasad has appeared in the Ranchi court every week on fixed dates.
The 70-year-old has been languishing at Birsa Munda Central Jail in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi since December 23 last year when a special CBI court convicted and sentenced him 3.5 years of jail term in the second fodder scam case.
The CBI has, meanwhile, also registered the railway contract case against Prasad, his son Tejaswi and others.
“Lalu initially didn’t face any direct trouble as his cases were moving at a snail’s pace. When 47 of the total 53 cases registered by the CBI in 1996 were disposed of, the entire focus eventually shifted to remaining five cases involving Lalu and other politicians. A day-to-day hearing resulted in the quick disposal of two cases out of the five,” a CBI counsel said.
- #RC 68 (A)/96 (fake withdrawal of Rs 33.61 crore from Chaibasa treasury) - Judgment on Jan 24
- #RC 38 (A)/96 (fake withdrawal of Rs 3.31 crore from Dumka Treasury) - Verdict expected in February-March
- #RC 47 (A)/96 (fake withdrawal of Rs 139.39 crore from Doranda treasury, Ranchi) - Verdict expected by the end of 2018.
- July 30, 1997-December 11, 1997: 135 days
- November 26, 1998- January 8, 1999: 44 days
- May 5, 2000-June 18, 2000: 45 days
- November 26, 2001-December 21, 2001: 26 days
- December 22, 2001- January 27, 2002: 37 days
- One day in disproportionate asset (DA) case in 2000
- September 30, 2013, to December 15, 2013: 77 days
- December 23, 2017, to till date: 24 days
- Total days: 389
- A sum of Rs 950 crore fraudulently withdrawn from various govt treasuries in united Bihar by making paper supply of fodder, medicines, equipment and other articles to animal husbandry department (AHD)
- Theft spanned many years involved numerous officials, politicians across party lines
- The scam first surfaced in 1996 after raids at AHD offices in Jharkhand’s Chaibasa district
- The suppliers received payments from treasuries against fake supplies
- Accused politicians are charged with receiving kick-back and extending patronage to the scamsters.
“Let’s see the result of the third case against Prasad on January 24, the date fixed for the verdict. This case is related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 33.13 crore against the annual allotment of Rs 7.10 lakh during 1992-93 from Chaibasa treasury. As many as 56 accused have faced the trial. This is a bigger case in comparison to the last one in which Prasad was convicted,” he added.
Prasad is facing similar charges in all these cases.
According to the CBI, Prasad as the chief minister and finance minister never initiated any action to find out the cause behind such alarming withdrawals from animal husbandry department (AHD) and thus actively connived with scamsters to facilitate the fraud.
The trial against Prasad is on in two cases in which one is running at an advanced stage of trial and judgment is expected in February or March.
But, the biggest fodder scam case and the last one relating to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 147 crore from Ranchi’s Doranda treasury and involving 120 accused is still at the initial stage of trial and evidence of prosecution witnesses (PWs) are being recorded.
“The case involves nearly 799 PWs out of which 448 have been examined. We may reduce the number of witnesses. But, it will take a minimum of six months to attain the finality,” said advocate BMP Singh, conducting the case on behalf of the CBI.
“Given the charges levelled against him and evidence available in these cases, Prasad is going to have a bumpy ride in the times to come,” Singh added.
Prasad’s legal woes have stirred Bihar politics with the RJD’s opponents and its alliance partners devising new strategies.
Bihar’s Congress legislature party leader Sadanand Singh on January 13 hinted that his party is with the RJD when it comes to national issues but is independent on state issues.
Prasad has nominated his younger son as his heir to take his political legacy forward. Tejashwi has shown promise as the deputy chief minister and now as the leader of the opposition. He left his mark in his speech as the leader of the opposition during the confidence motion of the Nitish Kumar-led NDA govt after spilt of the grand alliance.
He is also active on social media taking political opponents head-on.
Despite the sparkling light, the RJD cadre feels the discomfort about the party’s future in absence of the charismatic Lalu Prasad.
“Tejashwi has no doubt shown promise and the cadre, especially the young, is rallying behind him. However, he is still to cover a long distance when compared to the charisma and political acumen of Lalu ji. If Lalu ji remains in jail for long, it will be difficult to say which way the party would head to,” a senior RJD leader in Jharkhand said.
However, party spokesperson Manoj Jha said Lalu may be in jail, but his “counsel will always prevail”.
“His following can only increase. We have just been strengthened.”
First Published: Jan 15, 2018 16:24 IST