RJD leader Lalu Prasad faces the biggest trial of his career on Monday when a designated CBI court in Ranchi is expected to pronounce its verdict in a fodder scam case in which the former Bihar chief minister is an accused. The Telegraph traces the scam that assumed huge proportions during Lalu Prasad’s tenure as Bihar chief minister between 1990 and 1997
What is the fodder scam?
The scam pertains to fraudulent withdrawal of public money worth Rs 950 crore from the treasuries of undivided Bihar under the head of the animal husbandry department (AHD) from 1990 onwards. The withdrawals were carried out on the basis of fake bills and vouchers for buying feed, fodder and medicine for livestock by AHD officials in connivance with suppliers and the top layer of the state’s bureaucracy and politicians cutting across parties, including the RJD, Congress, JD(U) and the BJP. Some CBI sleuths preferred to refer to it as “treasury scam” instead of fodder scam
How did the scam surface?
The CAG was the first to point out the anomalies in successive reports. The CAG, in its annual reports for the fiscals 1992-93, 93-94, 94-95 and 95-96, pointed to the excess withdrawal by the AHD from the treasuries. The then Lalu Prasad government did not table these reports on the floor of the legislature and kept them away from public glare. The scandal surfaced when the government tabled the CAG reports in the legislature in December 1995. Then deputy commissioner, West Singhbhum, Amit Khare was the first to follow up on the CAG’s report that detected a fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury. The first FIR with police was lodged on January 24, 1996. The CBI numbered the case RC-20A/1996 when it took over the fodder scam investigation on March 19, 1996, on the Supreme Court’s order. This is the case whose verdict is expected to be pronounced by the CBI court in Ranchi on Monday
How many cases are there in all? Where are they lodged?
The CBI lodged 54 cases in connection with the scam. They were initially lodged with the CBI’s regional office in Patna, which reported to the designated CBI court in Patna and also the monitoring bench of Patna High Court. After the bifurcation of Bihar in November 2000, 52 cases were transferred to the CBI court in Ranchi with a bench of Jharkhand High Court monitoring them. Two cases were left in Bihar — Disproportionate Assets case (5A/98), in which Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi were acquitted, and RC-63 A/96 pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 40 lakh from the Bhagalpur treasury
How many cases have been decided by the courts?
Till May 2013, the courts have disposed of 45 of 54 cases
Who are the key accused?
The leave reserve officer — an officer of regional director rank — in the AHD based at Ranchi, Shyam Bihari Sinha, is the key accused who figured in all the 54 cases. The accused can be divided into four brackets — AHD officials led by Sinha who actually carried out fraudulent withdrawals; suppliers who furnished fake bills/vouchers; IAS officers who overlooked the fraud and politicians who aided and abetted the scandal over the years. About 510 of the 600-plus accused in the 54 cases have been convicted
What is the specific case RC-20A/1996?
It deals with the withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury by AHD officials on the basis of fake bills and vouchers procured and processed in connivance with suppliers, senior bureaucrats and politicians from 1992 to 1996. There were altogether 54 accused in the case. There are 45 accused left in the case now Among the key politicians accused in this case are Lalu Prasad, former chief minister Jagannath Mishra, former AHD ministers Vidyasagar Nishad and Chandradeo Prasad Verma, JD(U) MP Jagdish Sharma, former RJD MP R.K. Rana and BJP leader Dhruv Bhagat. Mishra was made an accused because Lalu Prasad, as MP, had written a letter to “J. Mishra” (then CM of Bihar) asking him to make a key accused, Ram Raj Ram, the AHD director. Again, as leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, Mishra had recommended the extension of service of scam kingpin Sinha. Among the key IAS officers accused were Phulchand Singh, Mahesh Prasad, Beck Julius, K. Arumugham and Sajal Chakravarty. The court later acquitted Chakravarty
Why did Lalu have to resign as CM?
After then governor A.R. Kidwai gave his nod to prosecute Lalu Prasad, the CBI court took cognisance of the chargesheet filed by the agency and a non-bailable warrant was issued against him. Then Prime Minister I.K. Gujral hinted that Lalu Prasad should resign, which was ignored. There were reports of then CBI joint director Upen Biswas seeking the help of the army to arrest Lalu Prasad. On July 25, 1997, 1 Aney Marg, the official residence of the Bihar chief minister, was virtually surrounded by paramilitary forces ready to arrest Lalu Prasad. The apex court stayed his arrest, but it was clear that he would have to go to jail. On the same day, Lalu Prasad held a meeting of his MLAs and it was announced that his wife Rabri Devi would be the CM. Virtually dragged from the kitchen, the semi-literate wife of Lalu Prasad was sworn in as the chief minister of Bihar the same day
What are the specific charges against Lalu?
Lalu Prasad overlooked/concealed the fraudulent withdrawals over the years as finance minister of Bihar. He was closely associated with Shyam Bihari Sinha, the kingpin whom the CBI found to be the “guardian on record” for one of Lalu Prasad’s daughters studying in a school in Ranchi in the 1990s. Lalu Prasad was charged with conspiring with Sinha and other scam accused in siphoning off the money. Lalu Prasad has been charged under sections 420, 465, 468, 471, 120B/34 of the IPC and 13 (1/b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act
The fodder scam accused were known for their lavish lifestyle. There was talk, never confirmed, of the scam accused hiring actress Mamta Kulkarni (right) for a fat fee to dance to her hit number from Karan Arjun, “Mujhko Ranaji maaf karna”. Shyam Bihari Sinha was said to have hired a chartered flight for travelling to Australia with 11 attendants for his medical treatment