RANCHI: Former Bihar chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad was sentenced to 5 years in jail in a fodder scam case by a special CBI court here on Thursday. The court of Pravas Kumar Singh announced the quantum of punishment via video conference due to security reasons. Prasad has also been slapped with a fine of Rs 25 lakh.
Another former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra has been handed a 4-year sentence. He has been fined Rs 2 lakh.
Lalu, who was convicted in the case on Monday along with 44 others, including former chief minister Jagannath Mishra is currently lodged in Birsa Munda Central Jail here.
The 65-year-old leader is certain to lose his Lok Sabha seat and also barred from contesting election for six years following the sentencing thanks to a Supreme Court order.
During the argument in the court today, Lalu’s counsel pleaded a lenient sentence underlining that the former CM was a senior and law abiding citizen. Lalu’s lawyer also argued he was too old and suffered from many diseases. On the other hand, CBI demanded maximum punishment ‘which would act as deterrent in similar cases.’
The 17-year-old case involves fraudulent withdrawal to the tune of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury in the 1990s.
There were a total of 56 accused in the case. But during the trial, seven accused died, two turned approvers, one admitted to the crime and one was discharged.
Judge PK Singh had fixed July 15 as the date for verdict, and had asked the remaining 45 accused to be present in the court.
Lalu Prasad moved the Jharkhand high court and later the Supreme Court, seeking change of the judge in the case. Both the courts dismissed his petition, and directed him to complete argument in the case before the CBI special court.
Lalu Prasad quit the chief minister’s post in 1997 when his name figured in the CBI investigations in the scam, which surfaced in 1996.
Around 54 of the 61 cases were transferred to Jharkhand, after it was created as a separate state from Bihar in November 2000. Different CBI courts have passed judgments in more than 43 cases. Former CMs Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra are accused in five cases.
Key politicians in the case apart from Lalu and Mishra are former AHD minister, Vidya Sagar Nishad, Chandradeo Prasad Verma, former JDU MP, Jagdish Sharma, former RJD MP, RK Rana and former BJP MLA Dhruv Bhagat, while bureaucrats convicted in the case are Phulchand Singh, Mahesh Prasad, Beck Julius and K Arumugham.