RANCHI: Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and former Bihar CM Lalu Yadav was jailed on Saturday after a CBI court in Ranchi found him and 15 others guilty of corruption in a fodder scam that occured during his tenure as chief minister of Bihar. Six others, including former chief minister Jagannath Mishra, were acquitted. The court will rule on the jail sentence on January 3. Lalu Yadav’s party Rashtriya Janata Dal, which will be led by Lalu’s younger son, Tejashwi Yadav, called the case “a tragedy of errors”. The judgment came on the same day the Enforcement Directorate filed charges against Lalu Yadav’s daughter Misa Bharti for money laundering.
As he stood in the witness box with the 24 other accused, Lalu Yadav’s hopes of an acquittal rose when Special CBI judge Shivapal Singh declared that six accused including Jagannath Mishra stood acquitted. While the six were moving out of the witness box, Lalu Yadav looked a little confused about what had just happened. This is when his lawyer explained that the judge had found him guilty.
Lalu Yadav was immediately taken into custody and after completing the formalities, shifted to the local jail. In October 2013 when he was first convicted in a related fodder scam case, he had to spend two months in jail before he got bail from the Supreme Court.
Today’s case relates to embezzling of more than Rs. 85 lakh from the Deoghar Treasury between 1991 and 1994. Lalu Yadav faced accusations that as the Chief Minister and Finance Minister back in the nineties, he kept the file for an inquiry against the mastermind of the scam pending for 16 months and gave three other officials extensions despite objections from bureaucrats.
The CBI said he was aware of the scam but allowed the loot to continue by his inaction. Lalu Yadav’s party RJD insists that the CBI had overlooked the evidence produced by them and the court later, did not appreciate their arguments.
“We will appeal against this,” said senior RJD leader and former union minister Raghuvansh Prasad. But he, like the party’s spokesperson Manoj Jha, also made it clear that Lalu Yadav had to go to jail because he was from the backward community.
Lalu Yadav had been prepping for the conviction for months, and last month, named younger son Tejashwi as the RJD’s presumptive Chief Minister for the 2020 assembly elections.
Of the 34 people initially accused in the case, 11 died during the course of trial, while one turned approver and admitted to the crime.
In May this year, the Supreme Court ruled that Lalu Yadav will have to stand trial in all the fodder scam cases, setting aside the high court order that dropped cases charges against the former Bihar chief minister.
In 2014, the Jharkhand High Court had given relief to the former Bihar Chief Minister and others by dropping charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and prevention of corruption. The court had quashed the cases on the grounds that a person convicted in one case could not be tried in similar cases based on same witnesses and evidences.
The former chief minister of Bihar had been charged in several cases related to the scam, in which Rs. 900 crore were embezzled from the state exchequer for fictitious medicines and fodder for cattle over a period of 20 years. The CBI started probing the case in 1996.