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Above: Lalu Prasad Yadav (file picture)/Photo: UNI

This is the second of five Fodder Scam-related cases that RJD chief Lalu Prasad has been convicted in, he was earlier found guilty in the Chaibasa Treasury case

The Ranchi special CBI court on Saturday (January 6) sentenced RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav to 3.5 years in jail and Rs 5 lakh fine. Other convicts Sunil Kumar, Sushil Kumar, Sudhir Kumar, Raja Ram, Bake Julious, Mahesh Prasad, Phool Chand were also handed out 3.5 years jail sentence and Rs 5 lakh fine. One of the convicts can approach Ranchi special CBI court, the court ruled but the convicts can approach high court.

The pronouncement of the quantum of sentence for Lalu and the other accused came after three consecutive days of adjournments in the case by the special CBI court.

On Saturday too, while special CBI judge Shiv Pal Singh began the proceedings via video conferencing at 2pm – as scheduled a day earlier – he promptly set 4pm as the time for pronouncement of the sentence against Lalu and other accused.

The judge reportedly said before making this announcement that: “an open jail is best for these people (convicts), as they also have experience of cow farming”. The comment, seen as a direct dig at Lalu who is known for flaunting the ‘gaushala’ at his residence, also indicated that the judge might order the RJD chief to carry out his soon-to-be-announced sentence in an open prison.

On Friday, Lalu’s lawyers had pleaded that he be granted minimum punishment on the grounds of his old age and ill-health. The RJD chief has also vehemently denied having any role in the 21-year-old Deoghar Treasury case. The CBI judge, Shiv Pal Singh, had during the brief hearing on Thursday said that the RJD chief’s “well-wishers” had been calling him with references for a lenient sentence.

The CBI judge had hinted that Lalu’s supporters had been threatening him over the phone but told the RJD chief clearly: “don’t worry, I’ll act according to the law”.

The court had, on December 23, held Lalu along with others guilty of the fraudulent withdrawal of over Rs 89 lakh from the Deoghar Treasury between 1991 and 1994.

The former Bihar chief minister has already been convicted to a five year jail term in one of the five Fodder Scam related cases – that linked to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.5 crore from the Chaibasa Treasury – and now has three other cases related to the alleged Rs 900 crore swindle pending against him.

The verdict in the Chaibasa Treasury case in 2013 had cost Lalu his seat in the Lok Sabha and his conviction in the Deoghar Treasury case is likely to deflate his attempts at cobbling up a united Opposition front against the BJP.

—India Legal Bureau

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