RANCHI: In a body blow to RJD before next year’s Lok Sabha polls, its president Lalu Prasad was on Monday convicted by a special CBI court here in the fodder scam corruption case. The conviction disqualifies him from Parliament and renders him ineligible for contesting elections for at least six years.
Another 44 accused, including former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra, six politicians and four IAS officers, were also convicted by court of Pravas Kumar Singh for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury.
The court fixed October 3 for pronouncement of sentence against Yadav, Mishra and others in the case filed in April, 1996.
The RJD chief faces immediate disqualification as Lok Sabha member under a recent Supreme Court order that an MP or MLA would stand disqualified immediately if convicted by a court for crimes with punishment of two years or more and under some other laws even without jail sentence.
The July 10 judgement of the Supreme Court struck down a provision in the electoral law that provided protection to sitting MPs and MLAs by allowing them to continue in their posts if they appeal against a lower court conviction and secure a stay of the order.
Lalu would have got protection from disqualification if the ordinance promulgated by the Centre was cleared by President Pranab Mukherjee but he is said to have some reservations and raised questions over it.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi has compounded problems by attacking the ordinance and calling for its withdrawal, virtually sealing its fate.
RJD Spokesperson Manoj Jha said they would challenge the order in a higher court after the sentence is known.
Earlier, Prasad arrived at the special CBI court here before delivery of the verdict in the 17-year-old case.
The court had on September 17 set today’s date to pass orders in the case.
Among others, IAS officers Mahesh Prasad, Phoolchand Singh, Beck Juleus, K Arumugam, income tax officer AC Choudhary, former AHD officials and fodder suppliers were also among the accused.
Prasad had begun arguments on September 9 and ended it on September 17 after the Supreme Court turned down his request to change the current special court to another court after he apprehended political conspiracy.
Following the animal husbandry scam, popularly known as the fodder scam, Prasad had to resign as chief minister of Bihar.
After installing his wife Rabri Devi as the chief minister, Yadav had surrendered to a court in Patna on July 31, 1997.
Later, he came to Ranchi following a court order that Ranchi had the jurisdiction of the case. The Mecon Guest House was converted to a camp jail in Ranchi before he was shifted to the old Birsa Munda Jail at Circular road here.
After Jharkhand’s bifurcation on November 15, 2000, the litigations were brought before the Supreme Court whether the Patna high court had the jurisdiction on the cases in this part of the undivided Bihar and trial was stayed till December 2000 to December 2001.
The SC had said in November, 2001 that trial would be conducted by special courts in Ranchi.
Trial in Ranchi began in March, 2002 by seven special courts. The case was posted for defence of Prasad from May 15 and Prasad’s counsel examined 29 witnesses in his defence.
But when the defence continued to skip dates, the court fixed July 15 to deliver the judgement and asked the accused to complete arguments by July 1.
Subsequently, Prasad moved the Supreme Court pleading shifting of his case from the court of Pravas Kumar Singh on the ground of political conspiracy, which the apex court struck down, paving the way for the first judgement against Prasad.