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Why seek exemption to appear when you can’t vote in Prez poll: Court to Lalu

The RJD chief had sought exemption from court appearances in a fodder scam case because he was busy preparing for the July 17 electoral contest.

patna Updated: Jun 29, 2017 22:21 IST
Bedanti Saran
Bedanti Saran
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Lalu Prasad,Presidential elections,Fodder scam
RJD president Lalu Prasad at a special CBI court in connection with a fodder scam case in Ranchi on Thursday. (Parwaz Khan/ HT Photo)

A special CBI court in Ranchi on Thursday asked Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad to explain why he was citing the presidential election as a reason for seeking exemption from personal appearances when he wasn’t eligible to vote.

Prasad had sought exemption from court appearances in a fodder scam case because he was busy preparing for the July 17 electoral contest. Following this, special CBI judge Shivpal Singh asked: “You cannot participate in the presidential poll because you can’t vote. Why, then, do you need an exemption from making personal appearances?”

In his response, Prasad explained that as the national president of his party, he was required to hold meetings with party legislators to plan and strategise political moves. “I have fully abided with each and every order of the court. If the court requires my presence, I will readily come. However, my humble request should be considered at least for the time being,” he said.

Singh responded by asking Prasad to instruct his lawyer to submit an application in this regard, upon which the court will take a decision. The court, however, exempted Prasad from appearing on June 30 – when the statements of defence witnesses produced by Prasad are slated to be recorded.

The ongoing case relates to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 90 lakh from the Deoghar treasury. Prasad has produced former Jharkhand minister Suresh Paswan, a member of the Bihar legislative assembly between 1995 and 2000, as his witness in the case.

“Paswan was produced to counter the CBI’s allegation that Lalu Prasad was fully aware of the fodder scam, and he – being the chief minister and finance minister – never initiated any action to find out the cause of excess fund withdrawals from the animal husbandry department,” Prabhat Kumar, the RJD chief’s counsel, said.

The CBI alleged that several MLAs had raised questions about the scam in the Bihar assembly between 1994 and 1995, for which the government furnished its replies. This shows that Prasad possessed full knowledge of the scam and had actually facilitated it, the agency added.

Prasad had suffered a major jolt in the fodder scam case on September 30, 2013, when a trial court held him guilty in the first of six cases filed against him. The conviction earned him five years in prison, disqualified him from Parliament and banned him from contesting elections.

He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in December that year.

First Published: Jun 29, 2017 18:32 IST