Ranchi, Sept 30 (PTI, Online Bureau): Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad Yadav was on Monday convicted in the 17-year-old fodder scam case that dates back to his days as Bihar’s chief minister, and faces immediate disqualification as a member of Parliament under a recent Supreme Court judgment.
The Central Bureau of Investigation court that convicted him will pronounce its sentence on October 3. Lalu, 65, will become ineligible to contest elections for at least six years.
Another 44 accused, including former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra, six politicians and four bureaucrats officers, were also convicted by court of Pravas Kumar Singh for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury.
The case was filed in April 1996.
On July 10, the Supreme Court had said that an MP or MLA would stand disqualified immediately if convicted by a court for crimes involving punishment of two years or more and under some other laws even without jail sentence.
This judgment also struck down a provision in the electoral law that gave sitting MPs and MLAs time to appeal against a conviction and get it stayed.
Lalu would have got protection from disqualification had President Pranab Mukherjee cleared an ordinance rushed through by the Union government on September 24. But the President is said to have raised questions over it.
Then, on September 27, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi unexpectedly criticised the ordinance in public, queering the pitch for his own government and sealing the fate of the ordinance.
RJD Spokesperson Manoj Jha said they would challenge the order in a higher court after the sentence is known.
Earlier, Lalu arrived at the special CBI court here before delivery of the verdict.
Among others, IAS officers Mahesh Prasad, Phoolchand Singh, Beck Juleus, K Arumugam, Income Tax officer A C Choudhary, former AHD officials and fodder suppliers were also among the accused.
Lalu 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 scam in the animal husbandry department, popularly known as the fodder scam as money was siphoned off in the name of buying fodder for fictitious cattle, Lalu had to resign as chief minister of Bihar.
After installing his wife Rabri Devi as the chief minister, he 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 Supreme Court had said in November 2001 that special courts in Ranchi would conduct trial.
Trial in Ranchi began in March 2002 by seven special courts. The case was posted for defence of Lalu from May 15 and Lalu's counsel examined 29 witnesses in his defence.
But when the defence continued to skip dates, the court fixed July 15 to deliver the judgment and asked the accused to complete arguments by July 1.
Subsequently, Lalu 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 judgment against Lalu.