Ranchi: It is a crucial day for convicted RJD chief Lalu Prasad as a CBI court will announce the quantum of sentence in the fodder scam case on Thursday. Lalu faces a minimum of four years in jail in the case.
Lalu's counsel is expected to ask for lenient sentence on account of him being a former Union minister and will also cite his health as a factor. The final sentencing will take place in Ranchi via video conferencing.
On Monday, Judge PK Singh held Lalu and 44 others guilty in the fodder scam case, RC 20 A/96. Lalu has been convicted of corruption, criminal conspiracy and cheating. The 44 convicts include former Bihar chief minister and Congress leader Jagannath Mishra, six politicians and four Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers.
Lalu's conviction is a massive blow to him as it disqualifies him from Parliament and renders him ineligible for contesting elections for at least six years as per a recent Supreme Court order. Lalu was arrested and sent Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi a few minutes after the verdict. The government too has now withdraw the ordinance and Bill for shielding convicted MPs and MLAs.
The other politicians who have been convicted are Janata Dal United MP Jagdish Sharma, former legislators RK Rana, Dhruv Bhagat and Vidya Sagar Nishad after 17 years.
Lalu, who ruled Bihar for 15 years, has been convicted by special CBI judge Pravas Kumar Singh and faces disqualification as a Lok Sabha MP if he is sentenced to more that two years in jail and his political future could be in jeopardy. As per a recent Supreme Court judgement a legislator convicted in a case where the minimum sentence is two years in jail will lose his/her seat immediately.
Lalu's son Tejaswi Yadav called the verdict a conspiracy against his father and said that he will challenge it in the High Court. "The verdict is a conspiracy to implicate my father. We will fight this verdict electorally, go to the people's court and give a befitting reply to our rivals," said Tejaswi.
Lalu was one of the 45 people facing charges in the RC 20 A/96 case and had been charged with fraudulent withdrawing Rs 37.7 crore on fake fodder bills from Chaibasa treasury in the 1990s. Chaibasa was then part of undivided Bihar and is now in Jharkhand.
There were a total of 56 accused in the case. But during the trial, seven accused died, two turned approver, one admitted to the crime and one was discharged. Lalu and Jagannath are accused in a total of five fodder scam cases.
Lalu quit as Bihar chief minister on July 25, 1997 when his name figured in the CBI investigations in the scam, which surfaced in 1996. After stepping down, he rather surprising pulled his wife Rabri Devi out of the "chowka" (kitchen) and made her the chief minister and continued to rule through proxy.