Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Central Jail. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Oct. 2: Tomorrow’s sentencing must be weighing heavy on Lalu Prasad’s mind, but he did not forget an anniversary.
The RJD boss asked the Birsa Munda Jail authorities this morning for a portrait of Bapu and later offered flowers to it to mark Gandhi Jayanti, a jail official said.
At 2.30pm tomorrow, the special CBI judge will pronounce the jail sentence for Lalu Prasad and 36 others via videoconference.
Aware that the whole country will be watching, the jail authorities are anxious to ensure there are no technical glitches. For this, the statewide area network JharNet needs to deliver. After incessant rains snapped two landline connections today, there were jitters.
“It’s the first e-sentence for the jail, but we are confident,” said IG (prisons) Shailendra Bhushan.
According to the plan, the courtroom of judge P.K. Singh and a room inside the jail will each have CCTV cameras, JharNet-enabled computers and a projector each, a senior jail official said. The convicts will enter the room one by one to receive their sentence. In an adjoining room in the jail, an LCD screen will beam the footage to the rest of the convicts and the jail officials.
Acting jail superintendent Virendra Kumar, who is also additional collector of Ranchi district, reviewed all the facilities inside the prison with a special thrust on the technical aspects.
Ailing former chief minister Jagannath Mishra is among the 37 people who will receive their sentence in the Rs 37.7-crore Chaibasa treasury scam, part of the Rs 950-crore fodder scam.
Arguments by defence lawyers Chitranjan Sinha and Pravash Kumar as well as the prosecution counsel B.M.P. Singh on the quantum of sentence will start around 11.30pm.
The judge was in the courtroom today, a public holiday, for a last-minute review but gave away nothing.
Ranchi deputy commissioner Vinay Kumar Choubey said they were tightening security in anticipation of an outcry in the RJD camp after Lalu Prasad is handed a jail term.
Depending on the number of years he is put behind bars for, his camp will start looking at the next round of legal proceedings. The buzz for succession is also growing — wife Rabri Devi and son Tejaswi have invoked the “final court of the people”.
“Rabri Devi is our leader. She is still there to guide us,” party secretary general Ramkripal Yadav has said.
Tejaswi arrived in jail at 4pm to meet his father, accompanied by RJD MLA and tourism minister Suresh Paswan. Captain Ajay Singh Yadav, a minister in Haryana government and the father-in-law of Lalu Prasad’s daughter Anushka, also visited him in the evening.
Another visitor made a noisy entry. When RJD MLA Sanjay Prasad Yadav arrived around 3.30pm, the jail guards asked who he was. “Pehchante nahin ho kya? (Don’t you know me?)” thundered Yadav. “Nahin sir, nahin pehchante hain (No sir, I don’t),” came the reply. One of Yadav’s hangers-on shouted: “MLA saheb hain, Godda se (He is the MLA from Godda).”
In the morning, when there were no visitors, the RJD leader spent his time chatting with prison officials and other fodder scam convicts R.K. Rana, a former MP, and Jagdish Sharma, a Janata Dal (United) MP who had defected from the RJD.
While it is unlikely that tomorrow will bring any reason for Lalu Prasad to celebrate with sweets, jail doctors have told him to go easy on sugar. This morning, Lalu had dahi (curd), gur (jaggery) and tea with sugar for breakfast, not ideal for a diabetic on medication for years.
“Thoda mitha kam khaiyega, chai mein bhi thoda kam chini lijiyega (Cut down on sweets a little, even in tea take a little less sugar),” a jail doctor — Birsa Munda prison has a team of five doctors and a dentist — told Lalu Prasad this morning.
One of the doctors later said: “Laluji said he had been taking medicines for diabetes and BP prescribed by doctors at AIIMS, New Delhi.” So far, his blood pressure and sugar levels are within limits.