New Delhi: Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad was on Wednesday convicted by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Ranchi in yet another fodder scam case.
Jagannath Mishra, another former Bihar chief minister, was also found guilty by the CBI court, even though he had been acquitted in the second fodder scam case when the verdict was announced by the CBI court on 23 December 2017.
Lalu Prasad was handed a five-year prison term in addition to the three-and-a-half years he is already serving in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda jail, the CBI confirmed.
Wednesday’s conviction and sentencing pertains to the fraudulent withdrawal of over ₹ 30 crore from the Chaibasa treasury during 1994 and 1995.
The RJD said it would appeal in the high court and, if necessary, the Supreme Court.
“We have to abide by whatever is the court’s ruling. But the CBI court order is not going to be final. We will appeal in the high court and, if need be, in the Supreme Court. It is a common perception that Lalu Prasad, whom the public views as its hero, has been framed in the cases at the instance of Nitish Kumar and the BJP-RSS (Bharatiya Janata Party-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) brigade," Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu Prasad’s son said.
The Rs900 crore fodder scam dates back two decades to when the CBI filed a chargesheet against 38 persons on 27 October 1997. Eleven of them have since died and three turned approvers while two others confessed and were convicted in 2006-07, a CBI official said.
In 2013, a special CBI court sentenced Prasad to five years in prison for fraudulently withdrawing Rs37.8 crore from the Bihar government treasury for fictitious medicines and fodder for cattle over a period of 20 years. Prasad was barred from contesting elections and lost his Lok Sabha seat. He spent two months in jail before he got bail from the Supreme Court after he challenged his conviction. The court decision is awaited.
The CBI in New Delhi did not immediately comment on the verdict but said it “would wait to see how the remaining cases pan out".
Prasad is embroiled in other corruption cases as well. He, his wife, former Bihar CM Rabri Devi, and son Tejaswi Yadav, a legislator, are also facing CBI probes for “irregularities in the award of a tender for development, maintenance and operation of hotels at Ranchi and Puri to a private company in 2006, during the time when Lalu Prasad was the railway minister".
Former Bihar minister Vidyasagar Nishad, former Bihar assembly PAC chief Jagdish Sharma, former MLAs Dhruv Bhagat and R.K. Rana, and three ex-IAS officers were among the 50 persons who were convicted. The quantum of sentence is yet to be announced.
During the second fodder scam conviction in December 2017, special CBI court judge Shivpal Singh had held Lalu Prasad and 15 others guilty of embezzling Rs89.27 lakh from Deoghar treasury between 1991 and 1994.
PTI contributed to this story.