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Monday, 26 March 2018

Lalu Sentenced To 14 Years In Fourth Fodder Scam Case

Let me begin at the very beginning by pointing out that trouble does not seem to be waning even marginally for Lalu Prasad Yadav who is the former Bihar Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief. Instead his troubles are multiplying as he is getting convicted in one after the other different fodder scam cases that were pending against him! This has certainly made him a worried man and it even resulted in his health getting deteriorated!

                                            To be sure, in the biggest legal blow so far, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad was on March 24, 2018 sentenced to 14 years in jail and a fine of Rs 60 lakh was also slapped on him by a Special CBI Court in connection with the fourth fodder scam pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.13 crore from Dumka treasury in the 1990s.  CBI Judge Shiv Pal Singh awarded two sentences of seven years each under the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act and ordering the sentences run consecutively. If the fine remained unpaid, it would entail a further year’s simple imprisonment.

                                         Troubles pile up for RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav who has been convicted in four of the six cases pertaining to the fodder scam. Now he has the remedy to appeal before the High Court which he will certainly avail of. Now let us take a quick look at the past verdicts in the different cases pertaining to conviction of Lalu Prasad which are as follows: -

1.  September 30, 2013

Jail term: 5 years

Total convictions: 45 which includes former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra.

Total acquitted: 0

2.  December 23, 2017

Jail term: 3.5 years

Total convictions: 16

Total acquitted: 6 which includes Jagannath Mishra.

3.  January 24, 2018

Jail term: 5 years

Total convictions: 50 which includes Jagannath Mishra.

Total acquitted: 6

4.  March 24, 2018

Jail term: 14 years

Total convictions: 19

Total acquitted: 12 which includes Jagannath Mishra.

                                    Needless to say, Lalu’s first conviction came on September 30, 2013 in the Chaibasa treasury case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore. Handed a five-year prison term, Prasad came out of jail after 77 days on bail granted by the Supreme Court in December 2013. He faced legal trouble again in 2017 when a Special CBI Court on December 23 convicted him in the second scam pertaining to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from the Deoghar treasury. Lalu was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail in the case. On January 24, 2018 another CBI court convicted and sentenced Lalu to five years of imprisonment in the Chaibasa treasury case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 33.13 crore.        

                                      While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform here that on March 23, the court of Special CBI Judge Shiv Pal Singh had completed the hearing on the conviction. The Court had reserved the order on the quantum of sentence. The case, RC-38A/96, pertained to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.13 crore from the Dumka (now in Jharkhand) treasury between 1991 and 1996 when Lalu Prasad was Chief Minister by officials of the Animal Husbandry Department of undivided Bihar.

                                   For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that the court of Special CBI Judge Shiv Pal Singh pronounced the quantum of sentence through videoconferencing. Lalu Prasad was sentenced to 14 years in jail, seven years each under Sections of 120(B), 419, 420, 467, 468 of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Fines adding up to Rs 60 lakh, too, have been slapped on him. Prabhat Kumar who is the counsel for Lalu Prasad while speaking with journalists in Ranchi told them that, “Both sentences will run consecutively… we’ll appeal in a higher court against the judgment.”

                                     Be it noted, Om Prakash Diwakar, then a regional director with the Animal Husbandry Department too was sentenced to two consecutive seven-year prison terms under the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act and slapped with a similar fine. The court had earlier acquitted another former Bihar CM, Jagannath Mishra, and several other accused politicians in the case, including Dhurv Bhagat, Jagdish Sharma, RK Rana and Vidya Sagar Nishad. The court had also acquitted two IAS officials, Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad. In all, 12 people had been acquitted.

                                        To put things in perspective, nineteen accused, including Lalu Prasad and Om Prakash Diwakar were convicted on March 19. Ten of the convicts are government servants, including former IAS officer Phool Chand Singh, who was then Finance Secretary. They have been given consecutive prison terms of three and a half years each under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act Sections and fined Rs 30 lakh each. The other seven convicts, all suppliers and contractors too facing trial under IPC Sections were awarded prison terms of three and a half years, and fined Rs 15 lakh.

                                     In retrospect, we saw how in three earlier fodder scam cases, Lalu Prasad had been awarded jail terms of between three and a half years and five years, with the sentences running concurrently. In this case, however, the Special CBI Judge Shivpal Singh said that, “The sentence would run consecutively and not concurrently”. A CBI counsel said that, “If the court doesn’t specifically mention that the sentences would run concurrently, it is understood that the sentences would run consecutively. In this case, however, the court has clearly specified that the sentences would run consecutively. We had prayed for maximum punishment.”

                               Bluntly put, Prabhat Kumar who is counsel for Lalu said that, “This is too harsh a punishment, and we were not expecting it. But we respect the judgment and will approach the Jharkhand High Court after going through the order in detail.” Advocate Vishnu Sharma said that, “Lalu Prasad has been sentenced to seven years in prison under IPC Sections 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 477 (fraudulent cancellation, destruction of will or valuable security) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and penalized Rs 30 lakh. He was awarded another seven-year jail term and Rs 30 lakh fine under the Prevention of Corruption Act.” He also said that if fine isn’t paid, convict would have to spend one more year in prison for each of the two sets of Sections.  

                              Truth be told, Lalu has so far got no relief from the Jharkhand High Court. His bail petitions in the Deoghar and Chaibasa treasury cases were rejected. Not just this, his legal troubles are likely to mount further as a separate fodder scam case, pertaining to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 179 crore from Doranda treasury in Ranchi is currently being heard involving 120 accused and a case is ongoing in Bhagalpur as well.

                                 It is noteworthy that on March 24, the Special CBI Judge Shivpal Singh while awarding the sentences by video-conferencing said that, “The matter could have been stopped at an early stage, (but) instead of taking concrete steps Shri Lalu Prasad kept justifying the action and inaction of the AHD officials and abetted the offence.” The court rejected Lalu’s contention outright that it was he who had got FIRs registered in the first instance, saying his “malafide intention” was already clear. It also took note of the glaring fact that, during the period under consideration, Lalu Prasad was both the Chief Minister and Finance Minister of the state.

                                     It must be further added here that the court minced no words in stating unambiguously that, “Politicians namely Lalu Prasad Yadav (through) his willful omissions and commissions have contributed to this plunder. The accused persons have invariably availed pecuniary gains and hospitality from the AHD officials and suppliers.” The court further said that, “Due to this meeting of minds, they had forgotten the provisions of law, constitutional provisions, service law and the government failed to enquire into the matter of criminal negligence and take drastic steps to prevent the ongoing loot.” Lalu who was lodged in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Central Jail is currently admitted in Ranchi’s Rajendra Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) where he was shifted after he complained of feeling discomfort.

                                     Without getting personal, one has to say with deep regret that the laws of corruption in India are very lenient which neither awards death penalty nor life term for corruption which is responsible for millions of Indians dying from poverty as corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, police cops and businessmen siphon off crores of rupees time and again yet even after being convicted come out of jail in few years or appeal to higher courts and hire best lawyers and get bail within no time! This has to end if corruption is to be controlled in our country! Why death penalty and life term not given to corrupt when it can be given to other less heinous offences like murder of a single person in a fit of anger etc?

                                  All said and done, it has to be said with full conviction that death penalty and life term should be just thrown out from our penal laws if they cannot be given to those corrupt elite who  siphon off thousands of crores of rupees like Vijay Mallya or Nirav Modi or others and yet enjoy life abroad after very easily fleeing thus making a complete mockery of our entire legal system! Corruption cases must be heard expeditiously and it should not take much time to get decided because if cases are decided in more than 20 years in just lower courts, it is but natural that the accused offenders feel that they can easily get away and by the time they are sentenced by the highest court of the land that is Supreme Court, they will either die a natural death or by that time would escape to a foreign country to lead a comfortable and luxurious life there as many corrupt are leading in UK, USA and other countries right now! But this is easier said than done because the law making is done by politicians who never want such changes which alone explains that why even after more than 70 years of independence we see no change happening on this front nor any initiative being taken on this front by any political party!

                                       No wonder, we are slipping in corrupt countries rank list and last year we were 76th and now we are 81st and it will not be a wonder when we may well top the list as politicians are just not prepared to change the laws of corruption like Prevention of Corruption Act and other laws related to corruption under any circumstances! Why should the whole property of accused offender who is corrupt not be seized and all his/her bank accounts be frozen as soon as he/she is convicted?

                                       It is sheer lack of political will power that corruption scams keep surfacing every now and then and yet we see that there is just no fear among corrupt of our laws and being jailed because there are far too many loopholes in our legal system which the corrupt exploit very conveniently with the help of their top legal team and get away either very lightly or after facing a very lenient punishment and here too come out on bail very easily! This must end if corruption is to be controlled in our country!

                                       Cases of corruption must be decided at the earliest by constituting more fast track courts and witnesses must be given full police protection so that they don’t turn hostile under fear of being killed by the high and the mighty who are corrupt! Only then can we hope of this cancerous disease of corruption getting controlled in time and our nation saved from being looted by rogues worse than dacoits and mafias who escape to foreign countries after defrauding our nation of thousands of crores of rupees as we are seeing for ourselves most unfortunately in our country in the last few years yet very little is being done to contain it immediately and cure it finally by adopting the right course of legal action against all those who resort to corruption without fear of being ever convicted finally! This has to change in India now! Status quo cannot be allowed now under any circumstances!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.