Fodder scam of Bihar, 1996
This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.
Fodder scam: a timeline, January 27, 1996-December 23, 2017
The fodder scam, a timeline, January 27, 1996-December 23, 2017
1996/ The officers who unravelled the Fodder Scam
January 3, 2018: The Times of India
The probe into the thousand crore rupee fodder scam, which rocked Bihar in the 1990s, was slow and painstaking. It all began with a raid conducted by a bunch of forthright government officials in Chaibasa in 1996. TOI profiles the men of honour
2017: found guilty
December 23, 2017: The Times of India
RJD chief Lalu Prasad was found guilty in one of the four pending fodder scam cases
In the second blow to the Yadav family on the same day, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad was on Saturday found guilty in one of the four pending fodder scam cases.
Special CBI judge Shivpal Singh pronounced the verdict in a packed courtroom, reported PTI. Lalu was among the 15 of the 22 accused found guilty by a special CBI court in Ranchi for the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 84.5 lakh from the Deoghar district treasury between 1994 and 1996.
The convicts, including the RJD chief, were taken into custody immediately after the pronouncement of the verdict. Seven of the accused, including former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra, were acquitted, reported ANI.
Earlier in the day, before the verdict was pronounced, Lalu had expressed his "respect" for the country's courts. "We trust and respect the judiciary. We will not let BJP's conspiracies work. The way things happened in the 2G case, they way they happened for Ashok Chavan, the same will happen for me," he said.
The RJD chief faced five cases in the fodder scam, of which now three are pending. He had been sentenced to five years in jail and fined Rs 25 lakh for the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.5 crore from the Chaibasa treasury in October 2013, but was granted bail by the Supreme Court in December 2013.
In 2014, the Jharkhand high court had stayed the trial against the former Bihar chief minister in four of the pending cases saying that a person convicted in one case could not be tried in similar cases based on same witnesses and evidence. The order, however, was quashed by the apex court, which ordered Lalu to stand trial in all pending fodder scam cases in which he was an accused.
Lalu had stressed that the judgment in the fodder scam would not adversely impact the RJD+ , which would continue to be led by his sons Tejashwi Prasad Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav. Hours before the judgment in the fodder scam, the Enforcement Directorate filed a chargesheet against Lalu's daughter Misa Bharti and her husband in a money laundering case.
Fodder case, conviction
How it brought Yadav down
Sourabh Sen, Feb 25, 2022: The Times of India
Twenty years after he walked out of the CBI office in Kolkata in retirement and became a politician, minister and writer, Upendra Nath Biswas is back in conversation. After all, he was the officer who led a cat-and-mouse game that brought down the formidable Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo and Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad in 1997. The wheel of justice set rolling by Biswas then took another turn a few days ago when a CBI court sentenced Lalu to five years in jail in the fifth of the fodder scam cases.
Biswas pulled it off in the face of stiff opposition from politicians, bureaucrats and some members of his own employer, the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Back in 1997, Lalu wielded enormous clout and had his hand on the levers of power in Delhi. First, HD Deve Gowda’s coalition government was propped up by the Congress, whose president Sitaram Kesri was from Bihar and enjoyed Lalu’s patronage. Deve Gowda was succeeded as Prime Minister by IK Gujral, who was elected to Rajya Sabha from Bihar in 1992 with Lalu’s blessings. So Lalu was seemingly untouchable.
But a different set of wheels were in motion in Patna in 1996.
The law takes the first steps
That January, when a deputy commissioner raided government offices in search of clues of embezzlement at the animal husbandry department, he unearthed what was at the time the biggest scam in India.
In March, the Patna high court swung into action and asked the CBI to investigate what came to be called the fodder scam. The task came to the 54-year-old Biswas, a doctorate in criminology who at the time was Joint Director (East) in charge of the Anti-Corruption Bureau. His team filed a police report at Chaibasa. Lalu went to the Supreme Court, which quickly ordered the investigations to continue and specifically warned senior CBI officials against removing Biswas, noting that such attempts had already been made.
Lalu later lobbied with Deve Gowda. But the Prime Minister called for the confidential Annual Crime Reports and was not convinced that he should act against Biswas.
So in June 1997, Biswas filed a chargesheet and asked for a non-bailable warrant to bring Lalu before the special court that had been set up under the Patna high court. The court issued the warrant. And all hell broke loose.
The cat-and-mouse game
Biswas’s deputy inspector general of police told him that delaying the warrant would give Lalu enough time to organise massive demonstrations, not to mention more lobbying in Delhi, and it might become impossible to execute the warrant later. Biswas made his way back to Kolkata and started playing a patient game by the book.
Biswas told this author: “In Kolkata, I got the message that Rakesh Asthana, now commissioner of Delhi Police, who was supposed to lead the operation, would not be able to reach Patna that day.” But the rest of his team was willing, and Biswas instructed his superintendent to go ahead.
A posse of CBI officers went to Lalu's house to take him into custody but were not allowed in. The state armed police and RJD activists stood guard, forcing the CBI team to wait outside. This went on past midnight, with Biswas maintaining a logbook recording the developments minute by minute. Biswas called the CBI director in Delhi but was told he was in Bengaluru. Biswas called Bengaluru, but the director was still not available. “I realised that a game was going on,” Biswas said to this author. “Our standing counsel suggested we consult the judges who were monitoring the case.”
Early next morning, the counsel and the investigating officer went to brief the senior judge about the previous day’s developments. “The judge told my team to go to the brigade headquarters in Danapur in Patna and approach the brigadier. He must give you the force to execute the warrant, he said.” But the CBI director seemed not in favour of taking Lalu into custody. So the CBI formally went to the brigadier, who rang up the judge. The judge said he had given the CBI instructions that were in the nature of an opinion, and not an order. “I had already told my team to call it a day. Approaching the brigadier was only a formality. However, by the next day, the entire world came to know that we were going to arrest Yadav with the help of the army; but it was not the case,” Biswas explained to this author.
Biswas asked for another warrant. But in the few weeks in between, Lalu quit as chief minister and appointed his wife Rabri Devi in his place. He then surrendered to the CBI in July and was sent to judicial custody .
The fodder scam was a classic example of wheels-within-wheels sustaining a web of scams-within-scams. Biswas told this author that three CBI directors had tried to soft-pedal the case. One even threatened Biswas that with the government and the CBI top rung ranged against him, no one would be able to save him.
“If you want to uphold morality or the rule of law, you have to be prepared for the price you have to pay at every stage of your service,” Biswas said.
From policeman to politician
Biswas was born in 1942 in Gopalganj district, now in Bangladesh, and his family shifted to Kolkata as riot refugees in 1964. From 1964 to 1967, Biswas was an election agent for Ambedkarite politician Jogendranath Mandal, who represented the Republican Party of India. It was Mandal who urged Biswas to appear for the civil services examination because very few people from the backward classes made it to the services.
After he cleared the exam and joined the police, Biswas wanted to understand the nature of crime and criminals. His posting as principal of the Central Detective Training Institute in Kolkata offered him the opportunity to research the subject and do a PhD. As Calcutta University had no separate discipline called criminology, Biswas was awarded the doctorate in sociology and went on to lecture on the subject for nine and a half years.
Biswas, quoting former finance minister Ashok Mitra, explained that no party in Bengal – not even the Communists – has groomed someone from the backward castes to become a Mayawati or a Jagjivan Ram. That’s why the dominance of the upper castes in politics continues even today. Mamata Banerjee persuaded Biswas to join politics after she came to power in the state. But he was a nobody in the Trinamool Congress. “I did not want to contest the elections in 2016. When I did, Mamata found out from the intelligence sources – and I also did – that my party did not want me to win,” Biswas told this author.
But Banerjee made him chairman of the Backward Classes Development Corporation and accorded him a Cabinet rank. Later, as a Dalitnamasudra refugee from Bangladesh, Biswas supported the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2019, a position that pitted him directly against Banerjee. The differences continued to grow, eventually leading to his resignation from both the party and the Backward Classes Development Corporation in 2021.
Inspiration from the Buddha, Ambedkar
His latest passion is a Boat Museum he has set up in northern Kolkata showcasing Bengal’s tradition of maritime commerce, from the time when merchant ships would go as far as Sri Lanka, the Arab peninsula and Southeast Asia. The documentation on maritime routes reveals Bengal’s knowledge about trade winds, says Biswas.
What is it that prevents Biswas from being co-opted into the comforts of the system?
He attributes it to Buddhism, which he regards as a philosophy of rebellion. Buddha rebelled against the caste system, against violence. “Ashoka and Buddha give me great strength to fight corruption and uphold the rule of law,” Biswas says. He describes himself as an Ambedkarite socialist and Ambedkarite Buddhist. “Ambedkar is a part and parcel of my life. Given my background and ethnic identity, I have no other place to go.”
Sourabh Sen is a freelance journalist who writes on politics, human rights and security issues
2018: Fodder case-3: Lalu sentenced to 5 years’ jail
Jaideep Deogharia, Fodder case-3: Lalu sentenced to 5 years’ jail, January 25, 2018: The Times of India
Former CM Mishra Too Given 5 Yrs
The ghost of fodder scam returned to torment Lalu Prasad a third time on Thursday when a special CBI court sentenced him along with another former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra and others to five years in jail in a case related to the embezzlement of Rs 37.62 crore of public money which was supposed to be spent on the upkeep of livestock.
The court which fined Lalu and Mishra Rs 10 lakh handed down similar prison term and penalties to former MPs Jagdish Sharma and R K Rana.
Jharkhand exchief secretary Sajal Chakrabarty, who also was found guilty, sentenced to four years’ rigorous imprisonment and fined Rs 2 lakh along with two former senior IAS officers Phool Chand Singh and Mahesh Prasad.
Lalu is currently serving a term of three and a half years at Birsa Munda Central Jail in a fodder scam related case related to embezzlement of money from the Deoghar treasury.
Special CBI judge S S Prasad said Lalu’s prison terms would run concurrently and the time already spent in jail in connection with this specific case would be deducted from his term in prison. Despite the fact that Lalu had already been convicted twice, the third conviction should hurt him. Three convictions from three different courts can undercut his claim that he was victim of a political frame -up.
Also, conviction of former chief minister Jagannath Mishra is a blow to the allegation of Lalu camp that the RJD strongman was being penalised because he belonged to a socially backward caste. Significantly, Mishra had been convicted along with Lalu when the court pronounced Lalu guilty the first time in a fodder scam-related case in 2013. He is accused in three other cases arising from the mega swindle of public money which went on for decades before being busted by alert officers — something which put a spanner in the works of the former Bihar CM when he was being seriously considered as a PM probable.
Unlike Lalu and Mishra and a few others, those sentenced to three years were allowed to apply for a bail bond by the court on two sureties of Rs 20,000 each.
Of the remaining five politicians convicted in the case, Jagannath Mishra, Jagdish Sharma and R K Rana have been charged under similar sections and sentenced to equal terms, while former BJP MLA who served as public accounts committee chairman, Dhruv Bhagat, and Vidya Sagar Nishad, who was Bihar’s animal husbandry minister, have been sentenced to shorter jail terms.
The court showed some leniency towards the women convicts. Madhu Mehta, Chanchala Sinha, Anita Prasad and Nirmala Prasad were sentenced to three years each and fined a cumulative Rs 80,000 each.
2018: Fodder case-4
March 2018/ convicted in fourth fodder scam
March 19, 2018: The Times of India
This case is to do with fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.13 crore from the treasury of a place called Dumka
Dumka is now in Jharkhand, but was in Bihar when Lalu was chief minister
The RJD supremo is currently lodged in the Birsa Munda prison in Ranchi
RJD chief Lalu Prasad was today found guilty in the fourth of five fodder scam cases.
Another accused, Jagannath Mishra, also a former Bihar CM like Lalu, was found not guilty in this case.
Lalu has already been found guilty by a special CBI court and sentenced to prison terms in three other fodder scam cases. This fourth case is to do with fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.13 crore from the treasury of Dumka, which is now in Jharkhand, but was in Bihar when Lalu was chief minister.
Mishra was convicted in two fodder cases by different courts in Jharkhand.
The RJD supremo is lodged in the Birsa Munda prison in Ranchi where he is serving a 13.5-year jail term. Hearing in this fourth fodder scam case was wrapped up on March 5 but the judgment was repeatedly delayed as Lalu filed several pleas. In addition to Mishra, 29 others, including former IAS officers and animal husbandry officials, were also accused in the case.
Lalu convicted, all other politicians acquitted
Jaideep Deogharia, March 20, 2018: The Times of India
Lalu convicted, all other politicians acquitted in 4th fodder scam case
A CBI special court convicted RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Monday in yet another fodder scam case — pertaining to withdrawals worth Rs.3.31 crore from the Dumka treasury between 1995 and 1996. He was earlier convicted in all three fodder scam cases that were disposed — two concerning the Chaibasa treasury and one the Deoghar treasury.
Lalu is the only politician to be convicted in the fourth fodder scam case. All other politicians, including former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra, were acquitted. Of the 31 accused, the court convicted 19 people.
Judge Shiv Pal Singh said hearing on arguments for quantum of sentence would begin Wednesday and the punishment is likely to be announced Friday. “We shall take up six cases each day and dispose the case by March 23.”
Lalu and four others were not present in court when the judge pronounced the verdict. Though the court waited for their arrival, it took longer for the RJD chief to arrive from Rajendra Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences, where he is undergoing treatment. Lalu arrived after the verdict was read out.
The judgment came as a surprise for Lalu and RJD supporters because all other accused politicians — Mishra, former MP Jagdish Sharma and former MLAs R K Rana Vidya Sagar Nishad and Dhruv Bhagat — were acquitted. Four top bureaucrats — former I-T commissioner AC Choudhary, former divisional commissioner NC Subarno and former IAS officers Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad — were also acquitted. The only IAS officer to be convicted is Phoolchand Singh.
RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh reacted, saying: “It is strange that in the same nature of case, two people are sentenced differently. Everyone understands why it is being done. This game is being played by PM Narendra Modi and BJP.”
All 10 animal husbandry officials accused in the case were found guilty.
March 2018/ 14 years in jail after 4th fodder scam conviction
Jaideep Deogharia, March 25, 2018: The Times of India
Punishments for Lalu Prasad continue to pour in, with a special CBI court sentencing the former Bihar CM and RJD boss to a total of 14 years for two more convictions concerning his involvement in the fodder scam.
Special CBI judge Shiv Pal Singh, who had held Lalu guilty of two separate offences — one under the Indian Penal Code and the other under the Prevention of Corruption Act — handed him separate sentences of seven years each. Singh said that the two terms will be served consecutively: a ruling that means that the one-time strongman of Bihar, who is already serving sentences for three prior fodder scam-related convictions, will be behind bars for another 14 years. This is the maximum sentence awarded to any politician in the fodder scam.
Court sentences 19 others to jail terms
The CBI judge, who acquitted all other politicians accused in the case, including former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra, also imposed a fine of Rs 60 lakh on the ailing RJD boss, and directed the Enforcement Directorate to confiscate the assets of Lalu and other convicts, which may have been acquired from the illegal income they received by fraudulently withdrawing Rs 3.76 crore from the Dumka treasury between December 1995 and January 1996. ED should estimate the value of the “ill-gotten” assets all the convicts have acquired since 1990 and confiscate it, the judge said.
The former CM’s defence had pleaded for leniency on the grounds of the long legal battle Lalu has had to endure to stave off convictions in fodder-scam related cases as well as his poor health. The court, however, showed no mercy. “He has been awarded the maximum punishment despite the fact that the nature of charges against him is almost similar in all the fodder scam cases,” said Prabhat Kumar, Lalu’s counsel.
The fodder scam concerned embezzlement of public money earmarked for promotion of animal husbandry by officials of the department tasked with the job. The combine raised forged bills to withdraw Rs 970 crore from government treasuries, the amount far exceeding the budget of the animal husbandry department. Considering the volume of fraudulent withdrawals, the court slapped a cumulative fine of Rs 5.1 crore on the 19 convicts.
Of the 48 accused, 13 died over the course of the hearing. One of the accused, a supplier, was convicted after a confession, while three others turned approvers. The trial against then-divisional commissioner of Dumka, S N Dubey, was quashed because of his conviction in another fodder scam case related to the Dumka treasury. The remaining 31 faced trial and, on March 19, the court acquitted 12 of the accused. The court sentenced former regional director (AHD) O P Diwakar to 14 years’ imprisonment with a Rs 60-lakh fine, whereas all other ex-officials of the department were sentenced to seven years in jail with a fine of Rs 30 lakh each. The others were convicted under provisions of the IPC, thereby getting three-and-ahalf years in jail and fines of Rs 15 lakh.
2022: conviction in fifth and final case
February 16, 2022: The Times of India
Ranchi: Former Bihar CM and RJD patriarchLalu Prasad was among 75 suspects convicted on Tuesday in his fifth and final fodder scam case that involved withdrawal of Rs 139. 35 crore illegally in 1995-96 from the Doranda treasury, currently in Jharkhand, reports Jaideep Deogharia. The Ranchi CBI special court of additional judicial commissioner SK Shashi pronounced the verdict while acquitting 24 others in the case relating to embezzlement of government money 25 years ago when Lalu was CM of undivided Bihar.
Rulings by the Supreme Court
Accusing Lalu Prasad Yadav/ 2017
Dhananjay Mahapatra, SC revives quashed fodder scam trial against Lalu , May 9, 2017: The Times of India
Trials Must For Each Of Many Cases’
The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to RJD chief Lalu Prasad by reviving the quashed trial in the Deoghar treasury withdrawal case against him and ruling that he will have to face separate trials in the 30-year-old fodder scam cases.
In what could provide political ammunition to the opponents of Prasad, who was convicted in one of the fodder scam cases and has, as a consequence, been debarred from contesting polls, a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy said his conviction and five-year sentence for conspiracy in the Rs 37.7 crore fraudulent withdrawal from the Chaibasa treasury would not fetter the CBI from prosecuting him separately in other fodder scam cases.
Every withdrawal constituted a distinct offence requiring separate trial, the apex court bench said.
The setback coincides with a stream of information about hitherto undeclared assets of the Prasad clan, and can only weaken his hand in his dealings with friend-turned-rival-turned-ally, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The SC was remarkably harsh on Jharkhand high court's Justice R R Prasad, who on November 14, 2014 had quashed the conspiracy charge against Prasad, ex-CM Jagannath Mishra and ex-bureaucrat Sajal Chakraborty . The SC ruling means Mishra and Chakraborty , too, will face multiple trials in fodder scam cases.
Rectifying the HC's “mis take“, the bench asked the trial court to complete trial against Prasad in nine months. Prasad's main argument was that the fodder scam was part of one conspiracy and as he had already been convicted for conspiracy in the Chaibasa case, he could not be punished again for conspiracy in the Deoghar case as doing so would be violative of his fundamental right under Article 20 (2) of the Constitution, which bars puni shing a person twice for the same offence.
Rejecting this, the bench held that fraudulent withdrawals from different treasuries as part of the mega fodder scam marked distinct offences requiring separate trials. Accepting solicitor general Ranjit Kumar's arguments, the bench said, “Though there was one general charge of conspiracy, which was allied in nature, the charge was qualified with the substantive charge of defalcation of a particular sum from a particular treasury in a particular time period. “The charge has to be taken in substance for the purpose of defalcation from a particular treasury in a particular financial year exceeding the allocation made for the purpose of animal husbandry on the basis of fake vouchers, fake supply orders etc. The sanctions made in the budget were separate for each and every year.
“Each defalcation would constitute an independent offence. Thus, by no stretch it can be held to be in violation of Article 20 (2) of the Constitution or Section 300 of the Criminal Procedure Code.Separate trials in such cases are the very intendment of law. There is no room to raise such a grievance. Though evidence of general conspiracy has been adduced in cases which have been concluded, it may be common to all the cases but at the same time offences are different at different places, by different accused persons.“
"Illegal" quashing of conspiracy charge by Justice Rakesh Ranjan
Dhananjay Mahapatra, Conspiracy case: Judge slammed for relief to Lalu , May 9, 2017: The Times of India
Stricturing Justice Rakesh Ranjan Prasad for “illegally“ quashing the conspiracy charge against RJD chief Lalu Prasad in the Deoghar treasury withdrawal case, the Supreme Court emphasised that the judge had taken a contrary position earlier in another fodder scam-linked case and said the reasons for the stark contradiction were “not understandable“.
As it indicted Justice Prasad, then in the Jharkhand HC, the SC also censured the CBI for “intolerable lethargy“ in not appealing the verdict favouring the RJD strongman.
Justice Prasad was transferred from Jharkhand HC to Manipur HC in February 2016 and became its chief justice in September 2016. He had given relief to Prasad on November 14, 2014 on the ground that the RJD chief had already been convicted for conspiracy in the Chaibasa treasury case in September 2013.
Justice Prasad was of the opinion that the entire fodder scam was one conspiracy and no person should be punished twice for the same offence. Justice Prasad is scheduled to retire on June 30, if he is not appointed as a judge of the SC by then.
An SC bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy tore into Justice Prasad's logic and showed him his previous judgment in a petition filed by R K Rana, a fodder scam co-accused. In Rana's case, Justice Prasad had held that separate trial for separate offences in fodder scam was permissible as the conspirators were different for different fraudulent withdrawals.
“Judicial discipline requires that such a blatant contradiction in such an important matter should have been avoided. The order passed in the case of R K Rana was on sound basis and though the court had noted that there was some overlapping of facts but the offences were different, it, however, has taken a different view in the impugned order for the reasons which are not understandable,“ the SC bench said.
“The court (Justice Prasad) ought to have been careful while dealing with such matters and consistency is the hallmark of the court due to which people have faith in the system and it is not open to the court to take a different view in the same matter with reference to different accused persons in the same facts and same case,“ Justices Mishra and Roy said.
“Such inconsistent decision-making ought to have been avoided at all costs so as to ensure credibility of the system. The impugned orders are palpably illegal, faulty and contrary to the basic principles of law and judge has ignored large number of binding decisions of this court while giving impermissible benefit to the accused persons and delayed the case for several years. Interference had been made at the advanced stage of the case which was wholly unwarranted and uncalled for,“ they said.
The CBI too got the wrong end of the stick for developing cold feet while challenging judgments in favour of Lalu Prasad.
Justices Mishra and Roy said, “The CBI ought to be guided by its manual. It is expected of it to be more vigilant. It has failed to live up to its reputation. In the instant case, lethargy on its part is intolerable..“
Pressures on the CBI court judge
Jaideep Deogharia, Lalu’s well-wishers contacted me, will do what law says: Judge, January 5, 2018: The Times of India
Special CBI court judge Shiv Pal Singh, who convicted Lalu Prasad in the second fodder scam case last month, said on Thursday that he was approached by the latter’s wellwishers. He made this remark while hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence for the fodder scam convicts, but didn’t give details.
“Laluji, aapke shubhchintakon ke bahut se phone calls aa rahey hain, lekin nishchint rahiye, karunga wohi jo kanoon kahta hai (Laluji, a lot of your well-wishers are calling me up. But rest assured, I will do what the law says),” a close aide of Lalu who was present in the court quoted the judge as having said. As soon as the judge said this, Lalu responded saying, “If this was the case, it is wrong.” He added that he would ask his supporters not to do so.
Though there was no discussion on Lalu’s sentencing, the court is learnt to have given him ample opportunity to talk his heart out. Known for his witty remarks, the RJD chief took the opportunity to make the sombre mood of the convicts lighter. Lalu’s aide told TOI that once the RJD chief was produced before the court along with the other 15 convicts, he sought lenient punishment for his party colleagues. “Huzoor RJD netaon ko maaf kar dia jaye, wo sabhi rajneetik bayanbaji kar rahe they, uske liye party unpar karwayi karegi
(Sir, please pardon the RJD leaders, they were making only political statements and the party will take action against them),” he told the judge.
Lalu told the judge the jail was very cold and his matter should be decided fast. The judge is learned to have told him to learn new skills like playing tabla during his stay in Jharkhand and make himself warm. Lalu also said that he is a bona fide member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Bar Council of the Patna HC. “I too understand law as I have obtained a degree.”
Lalu: I can’t hear in video conference
The judge heard the counsel of the first five convicts. Lalu is the sixth convict in the alphabetical order. The judge said he would take a final decision on whether to hear the convict and his counsel in person or through video-conferencing on Friday after Lalu prayed for personal appearance. “Hujoor wahan thik se sunai nahi deta hai (Sir, I can’t hear properly in video conference),” the RJD chief said, when the judge announced further hearing through video conference.
Lalu’s counsel Prabhat Kumar said the announcement of the sentence is unlikely on Friday. “The court has completed hearing the arguments of five convicts and 11of them are still left. Since the proceedings would begin in the second half, there are less chances of the arguments being completed and the verdict announced on the same day,” he said.
Counsel of the convicts prayed to the court to be lenient with their clients saying that they are all senior citizens and suffering from multiple health conditions. “Most of them have already served a term in the jail and have also been facing trial in court for more than two decades,” one of the counsel said.
Sources said the court heard the convicts individually too and on request of former IAS officer Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad, directed the jail authorities to lodge them in the upper grade cells within the Birsa Munda central Jail in Hotwar. Lalu is charged under Sections 420 and 120B of the IPC and Section 13 (1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, warranting a sentence of 2-7 years.