New Delhi: The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Lalu Prasad Yadav would stand trial for criminal conspiracy in the remaining four fodder scam cases, in a verdict that dealt a blow to the RJD chief and might also potentially impact Bihar’s ruling coalition and national political equations. The court also asked the lower court to complete all trial proceedings in nine months.
The scam relates to fraudulent withdrawal of `900 crore from government accounts in various districts in the name of cattle fodder and medicine spends when the 68-year-old was Bihar’s CM in the 1990s. The top court allowed a CBI plea and set aside the Jharkhand high court’s 2014 order that had dropped criminal conspiracy charges against the former Bihar CM in four cases on the grounds that a person convicted in one case cannot be tried in similar cases based on same witnesses and evidence.
The high court had referred to Mr Yadav’s conviction and that of 44 others in 2013 in one of the fodder scam cases, which had disqualified him from Parliament and barred him from contesting elections. It had taken more than a decade and a half for the fodder scam case to reach a verdict.
A former Union minister and a vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Yadav has been out on bail after briefly serving his 5-year sentence.
On Mr Yadav’s watch, Bihar came to be known as a byword for violence, poverty and corruption, but he still enjoys popular support for “championing backward castes” and for his trademark humour.
Monday’s ruling — that relates to a fraudulent withdrawal of `96 lakh — immediately gave fresh fodder to the Opposition BJP to target Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s government that has Mr Yadav’s RJD and the Congress as its alliance partners.
Former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra and former state chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty are also accused in the scam that had led to the registration of 53 cases.
Not a jolt, says RJD on verdict
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy said on Monday that the high court should have been consistent in its findings and not have given different views for different sets of accused in a case. It also pulled up the CBI for delay in filing the appeal against the high court order. “Nitish ji used to say that he will not compromise with corruption, but now he has an alliance with fodder scam culprits. This shows there is no law and order in Bihar,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said that the party always wanted the trial. “Words like setback and jolt are mere hype by the media. Our legal battle will help us combat the political battle as well,” he said....