Patna, Oct. 3: Lalu Prasad can file an appeal along with a bail petition in Jharkhand High Court, but this can be done only after October 17.
The RJD boss can challenge the special CBI court’s order, convicting and sentencing him to five years in jail in the fodder scam case pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury in Jharkhand. But the appeal and bail petition can be filed only after the high court reopens on October 17 following the Durga Puja holidays, a lawyer wishing anonymity said.
The lawyer said it would take at least a day or two to get a copy of the judgment from the CBI court. The petition for filing an appeal can be drafted only after going through the order. So, the appeal can be filed when the high court reopens. The court closes from October 5.
Legal experts say it would be difficult for Lalu to get any immediate relief from the high court.
“Lalu and others have the option of filing an appeal, praying for stay of conviction and sentence, apart from seeking suspension of sentence (grant of bail). Appeal is bound to be admitted as it is the right of an accused,” Patna High Court advocate Vindhyachal Singh told The Telegraph.
A high court or the Supreme Court has stayed conviction in the rarest of rare cases. Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu obtained a stay in a culpable homicide case and continued to be an MP but that was an exception. Lalu can fight an election only if his conviction is stayed.
Senior advocate Y.V. Giri, however, had a different take. “He (Lalu) can move for bail during the admission stage of the appeal and may or may not get bail,” Giri told The Telegraph. As per CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code) provisions, bail would be granted only after the convict has spent half of the sentence, he said.
In the past few years, both high courts and the apex court have been following this 50 per cent rule. This period includes the time the convict spent in jail during trial, Giri said.
Saket Tiwary, associate partner and head of the Patna office of D.H. Law Associates, said getting bail depends on the merit of the case. “Since I have not read the judgment, it is difficult to express my opinion. But Lalu may get bail immediately if the high court finds, prima facie, that there is no substance in the judgment. But what is more likely to happen is that the court would consider his bail petition after going through the lower court’s record.” Tiwary concurred with senior advocate Giri on the CrPC provision of granting bail after the convict has spent 50 per cent of the sentence but reiterated that it boiled down to the discretion of the judge granting bail, whether he finds merit in the appeal.
Saran bypoll unlikely
Sources in the chief electoral office (Bihar) ruled out the possibility of a by-election for the two Lok Sabha seats — Saran and Jehanabad — that Lalu Prasad and JD(U) leader Jagdish Sharma represented respectively. The two have ceased to be MPs by virtue of their conviction.
A senior official, who didn’t wish to be named, said the two vacancies were unlikely to be filled up as only seven-eight months remain before the 2014 general elections. Referring to Section 151A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the officer said: “The six-month timeframe for holding bypolls to a Lok Sabha or Assembly seat does not apply if the remaining term of the vacating MP/MLA is less than a year. Under such circumstances, both Saran and Jehanabad seats would remain unrepresented for the remaining term of the 15th Lok Sabha,” he said.