Fodder scam involved embezzlement of Bihar govt money for fictitious medicines, fodder for cattle in 1980-90s. It came to light in 1996.
Ranchi: In a major blow for RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, a special CBI court here on Saturday held him and 15 other accused guilty in a fodder scam case and sent him to Birsa Munda jail.
CBI judge Shivpal Singh acquitted six others, including former chief minister Jagannath Mishra, in the case related to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from Deoghar treasury between 1991 and 1994 when Mr Yadav was the chief minister of Bihar.
This is Mr Yadav’s second conviction out of the six cases filed against him in the scam involving embezzlement of over Rs 940 crores from the state exchequer for fictitious medicines and fodder for cattle over a period of 20 years in the 1980-90s.
The quantum of punishment in the case will be decided on January 3. Of the 38 accused chargesheeted on Oct. 27, 1997, 11 died, three turned approver while two others confessed and were convicted in 2006-07.
Mr Yadav blamed the BJP for his conviction. “I will not be cowed down with such frightening action conspired by the BJP and the RSS… I’ll not take rest until the BJP is wiped out from the country,” he said soon after his conviction.
“Powerful people and powerful classes always managed to divide society into ruling and the ruled classes. And whenever anyone from the lower hierarchy challenged this unjust order, they would be deliberately punished… A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes... But still prevails... In the end,” the RJD chief tweeted after he was taken into custody.
“Truth can be made to appear as a lie, as ambiguous or a half lie by concerted onslaught of bias driven propaganda. But blurred layer of bias and hatred will still be removed, come what may! In end truth will win (sic),” he said.
“Had people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Baba Saheb Ambedkar failed in their efforts, history would have treated them as villains. They still are villains for the biased, racist and casteist minds. No one should expect any different treatment,” he said in another tweet.
In May, the Supreme Court had ordered a trial against Mr Yadav and directed that it be completed within nine months, after it allowed a CBI plea which opposed the dropping of charges against the former chief minister. The apex court had set aside a 2014 Jharkhand high court order which had stayed trial against Mr Yadav.
On September 30, 2013, the RJD chief was convicted in another fodder scam case related to fraudulent withdrawal of `37.50 crore from Chaibasa treasury. The conviction got Mr Yadav five years in prison, disqualification from Parliament and a ban on contesting elections. Later, he was given bail by the Supreme Court in December 2013.
After the judgment in Ranchi court on Saturday, RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh told reporters, “This is not a final verdict, we will move the high court against CBI court’s order which convicted Lalu Yadav in the fodder scam case.”
The BJP latched on to Mr Yadav’s conviction to hit out at the Congress, an ally of the RJD, saying the UPA is an “alliance of corruption”.
Union minister J.P. Nadda said, “It has been proven that Lalu Yadav indulged in corruption and the decision has been given by the court. How does the BJP figure in it? It is the alliance between the Congress and Lalu Yadav’s party when all such actions have taken place.”
Facing BJP heat, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that criminal cases and political coalition are separate matters and that the RJD leader is fully capable of fighting his legal battle.
“We would like to ask BJP why the Srijan scam is not being investigated? Because the central charge in Srijan scam is also the same. The central charge is embezzlement from state treasury and the quantum of embezzlement is of a much greater order,” he said, calling the CBI a “pet performing parrot of this government”.
The issue related to the fodder scam was raised in Bihar Assembly in the 1994 by BJP leaders Sushil Kumar Modi and Saryu Rai.
Evidence produced before the court by the CBI during the Deoghar case trial suggests that fake bills and vouchers were used for withdrawal of money from the government treasury. A total of 18 witnesses appeared in court from Mr Yadav’s side while the CBI produced 120 witnesses against the accused.
According to senior lawyer Y.V. Giri, “Since this is the second conviction in the scam, Lalu Yadav may have to face imprisonment for a longer period this time.”
The current jail stint of Mr Yadav is his third in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda prison in fodder scam cases. He first landed in prison in 2001 after being remanded to judicial custody. In 2013, he spent four months in jail after reaching the prison on an elephant.
Saturday’s verdict came at a time when Mr Yadav was preparing to stitch together a larger secular alliance at the national level against the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
After the dramatic collapse of the Grand Secular Alliance in Bihar in June, the RJD chief had managed to stay in alliance with Congress despite opposition from a faction within the Congress.
There is a buzz in political circles that a section in the Bihar unit of the Congress may oppose the high command’s decision to remain in alliance with the RJD after Mr Yadav’s latest conviction in the scam.
According to observers, Mr Yadav’s conviction in the fodder scam case may also give rise to infighting within the RJD as several senior party leaders may not accept the RJD chief’s son Tejashwi Yadav as their leader.