Probashbangla24 Desk : A Ranchi court in India on Saturday sentenced former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad to 3.5 years of rigorous imprisonment and fined him Rs 10 lakh in a 21-year-old case of fraudulent withdrawal of funds from a government treasury.
Speaking over video conference, Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) judge Shivpal Singh handed the 15 other convicts jail terms ranging from 3.5 to the maximum seven years, and fines of between five and 10 lakh rupees.
“Rather than practising BJP’s Simple Rule – “Follow us or We will Fix you”. I will die happily fixing myself for Social justice, harmony & equality,” Prasad tweeted shortly after the verdict.
His son Tejashwi held a press conference in Patna and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of conspiring against his father and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
The 3.5 year jail term means that the 69-year-old Prasad cannot immediately apply for bail in the lower court and must wait until the high court hears his petition.
“We will move an appeal-cum-bail petition before the high court challenging the order of conviction,” Prasad’s lawyer Prabhat Kumar said. Prasad didn’t utter a single word throughout.
On December 23, the court held Prasad guilty of corruption, cheating and criminal conspiracy in connection with the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from the Deoghar treasury during 1991-1994 on the pretext of buying fodder. The court acquitted six of the total 22 accused including former chief minister, Jagannath Mishra.
This is the second fodder scam case in which Prasad has been convicted. Earlier, on September 30, 2013, he was convicted in a case connected to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore from Chaibasa treasury. The conviction got Prasad five years in prison, disqualification from Parliament and a ban on contesting elections. He was given bail by the Supreme Court in December, 2013.
On Saturday, Singh announced the maximum seven years imprisonment to seven convicts including former Janata Dal (United) parliamentarian Jagdish Sharma and slapped a fine of Rs 10 lakh on each of them.
When one of the convicts, bureaucrat Subir Kumar Bhattacharya, requested for a reduction in sentence because of an ailing wife, the judge suggested he could shift the convict to an open jail where his wife could live with him.
“You people have a vast experience of cattle rearing. You would enjoy open jail with your wife where you can feed the cattle with fodder. The government has invested huge money to construct these open jails, take benefit of this,” the judge added. Bhattacharya quickly withdrew his request.
Prasad was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail for offences of cheating, along with criminal conspiracy, and other sections under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The former Bihar CM was also given a jail term of three years and six months in the case under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The sentences will run concurrently. Prasad is currently lodged in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Central Jail.
Considered one of Bihar’s most popular leaders, Prasad stormed to power in 1990 forging a coalition of backward castes and Muslims and grabbed headlines when he stopped BJP leader LK Advani’s Rath Yatra at the height of the Ram Temple movement.
But his rule was also dogged by charges of corruption and lawlessness, and he lost power in 2005 to his one-time friend Nitish Kumar.
Despite his conviction in 2013, Prasad remained an important opposition leader and was instrumental in stitching together a grand alliance with Kumar and trouncing the BJP in the 2015 state elections. Prasad campaigned throughout the state and his RJD emerged the largest party in the assembly on the back of his popularity in rural areas, especially among Yadavs and Muslims.
The court had originally decided to read out the sentence on January 3 but repeatedly deferred it. On Thursday, Singh said he had received several phone calls from “well wishers” of the RJD chief. Prasad had also moved a petition on Friday for a lenient sentence, citing his health and jail conditions.
Source: Hindustan Times