|Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, where Lalu Prasad is lodged, on Wednesday.
Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Oct. 2: The carefully cultivated nonchalant fašade of RJD chief Lalu Prasad may be tough to maintain when the clock strikes 2.30pm tomorrow, as his sentence will be announced via videoconferencing between the CBI court and Birsa Munda Central Jail.
Besides Lalu, 36 others will receive their sentences tomorrow, including ailing septuagenarian former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra as well as two animal husbandry bureaucrats and one supplier who were absent on the verdict day of September 30, Monday.
Of the 45 accused, eight had received interim bail on September 30. All had been declared guilty in the Rs 37.7 crore Chaibasa treasury scam, an important part of the Rs 950-crore fodder scam.
Birsa jail authorities, painfully aware that the entire nation will tune in tomorrow, are on tenterhooks to make the videoconferencing technically glitch-free.
Videoconferencing is not rocket science today, but statewide area network Jharnet needs to pull it off smoothly tomorrow.
According to plan, the courtroom of Judge P.K. Singh and a room inside Hotwar jail will each have CCTV cameras, Jharnet-enabled computers and a projector each.
Each individual will enter this room one by one to receive his sentence from the judge.
In an adjoining room inside Birsa jail, an LCD screen will beam videoconferencing footage to those waiting, including the rest of the convicted persons and jail officials.
Preparations have been made to connect the Jharnet-enabled computer and the LCD via an extension cord.
Sources conceded that jail officials were a tad jittery, given that incessant rain snapped off two landline phones today.
New acting jail superintendent Virendra Kumar, also additional collector of Ranchi district, reviewed all facilities inside prison, with a special thrust on technical aspects.
Talking to The Telegraph this evening, a senior jail official explained the arrangements.
Arguments by defence lawyers Chitranjan Sinha and Pravash Kumar as well as the prosecutor’s counsel B.M.P. Singh will start around 11.30pm on the quantum of punishment. Judge Singh will pronounce his sentence at 2.30pm.
IG (prisons) Shailendra Bhushan hoped everything would be fine. “It’s the first e-sentence for the jail, but we are confident,” he said.
Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey said they had set administrative wheels in motion for security after the sentencing. As Lalu receives his quantum of jail years, it will presumably cause a huge outcry in the RJD camp.
Depending upon the number of years Lalu is jailed, his camp — RJD workers and the still-faithful but dwindling band of Yadavs — will start looking at the next round of legal proceedings.
The buzz for succession is also growing — wife Rabri and son Tejaswi have launched a war cry of appealing to the “final court of the people”, presumably the Lok Sabha polls next year.
“Rabri Devi is our leader. She is still there to guide us,” party secretary general Ramkripal Yadav has said.
Amid the speculations and the jitters, CBI judge Singh seemed the calmest.
On Gandhi Jayanti, a public holiday, he came quietly to the courtroom in the afternoon to make a last-minute review.
A man of few words, he did not give anything away.