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CBI on fodder fast track

New Delhi, May 9: The CBI today reviewed the progress in the fodder scam cases to remove bottlenecks and hasten trial proceedings.

Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav’s name features in the list of the scam accused.

The review, carried out by bureau director U.S. Misra, was a follow-up of the CBI’s decision early this year to focus on expediting trials.

'This is a decision taken independently by the CBI,' a senior bureau official explained.

However, the bureau acknowledged that the United Progressive Alliance government, which has been under attack from the Opposition on the issue of tainted ministers, would like the fodder scam cases to be decided expeditiously.

If the RJD chief is convicted, he would have to step down from his cabinet post. But if cleared, it would take the steam out of the National Democratic Alliance’s campaign against tainted ministers. Laloo Prasad is the Opposition’s prime target.

The CBI said Misra’s directive to facilitate in hastening the trials was aimed for all the fodder scam cases, not just the ones allegedly involving the railway minister.

Bureau spokesperson G. Mohanty said the CBI had filed chargesheets in 60 cases, of which 53 are being tried in courts in Ranchi and seven in Patna.

Five cases have ended in conviction. Fifteen people, including two regional directors of the animal husbandry department, have been awarded terms ranging from 3 to 5 years’ rigorous imprisonment and fine.

In the 55 other cases, including the seven against Laloo Prasad, trials are still on.

The most damaging one, a bureau official said, is the disproportionate assets case against the minister and his wife Rabri Devi. They are alleged to have amassed nearly Rs 42 lakh worth of disproportionate assets.

Mohanty said it was observed at the meeting that the progress has been satisfactory in most cases.

Misra, however, identified a few cases where the trials require speeding up. He has directed officers to take steps like setting up video conferencing for two accused persons lodged in Ranchi jail for their trial in Patna.

The CBI director has also cleared the postings of additional officers in the animal husbandry cell of the CBI to remove bottlenecks and facilitate speedy disposal of the cases.

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