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The Supreme Court on Friday directed the CBI to respond to the bail plea of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav  who is in jail in connection with the multi-crore fodder scam.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to respond in two weeks on Yadav’s plea challenging the January 10 verdict of the Jharkhand High Court rejecting bail to him in these cases. Yadav is lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, Jharkhand. The fodder scam cases had been transferred to Ranchi after Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000.

The scam relates to fraudulent withdrawal of money from treasuries in the Animal Husbandry department in early 1990s when the RJD was in power with Yadav the chief minister of undivided Bihar. Last year, the CBI court had, on March 19, convicted Lalu and 18 others on various charges related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.13 crore from the Dumka treasury between December 1995 and January 1996. Judge Shivpal Singh had, however, acquitted former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra – a co-accused in all Fodder scam related cases – and 12 others of all charges in the Dumka Treasury case.

The court had earlier postponed the judgment in view of Lalu Prasad’s counsel filing a petition under section 319 of the CrPC asking that the then three officials of the Accountant General (during the period when the allegedly fraudulent withdrawals were made from the Dumka treasury) be made party to the case. Section 319 CrPC can be invoked when there is strong and cogent evidence against the accused.

This is the fourth of five cases linked with the Fodder Scam in which Lalu has been convicted and the first in which he has been awarded over five years in jail. His first conviction came on September 30, 2013, in the Chaibasa treasury case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore. The conviction and award of a five-year jail term, had led to the disqualification of Lalu’s membership of the Lok Sabha. After spending 77 days in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda jail, Lalu was granted bail by the Supreme Court in December 2013.

However, four years later, trouble renewed for the RJD chief with the special CBI court convicting him on December 23, 2017 him in the Deoghar Treasury case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh and sentencing him to 3.5 years in prison. A month later, on January 24, Lalu was convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment in another case linked with the Chaibasa treasury, one related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 33.13 crore.

—India Legal Bureau

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