Ranchi, Oct. 3: Lalu Prasad was today sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment, with the judge ignoring pleas that the term was “tantamount to awarding him death owing to his age, respect in society and the position he held”.
“Sir, I am innocent. I have been framed in the case,” the 66-year-old said through videoconference from jail just after judge Prabas Kumar Singh read out the sentence three days after the leader and 44 others were held guilty in the fodder scam.
Speaking after the proceedings were over, Lalu Prasad’s lawyers termed the punishment and the judge “highly biased” and announced they would appeal in Jharkhand High Court in two weeks.
If the sentence is upheld in the higher courts, by the time the former Bihar chief minister can legally contest elections again, he will be 77. Jail tenure apart, the Supreme Court has banned convicted legislators from contesting elections for six more years.
The special CBI court also slapped on Lalu Prasad a fine of Rs 25 lakh, which, if he fails to pay, will prolong his jail term by six months.
The RJD chief, disqualified as MP, is facing four other related cases in the Rs 950-crore scam pending in courts across Ranchi and Patna.
Judge Prabas Singh sentenced Lalu and 36 others this afternoon, including another former chief minister Jagannath Mishra, IAS officers and animal husbandry officials and fodder suppliers spanning Ranchi, Patna, Calcutta and Delhi.
Since arguments began on the sentences this morning, Lalu’s lawyers made an impassioned appeal for leniency.
Senior counsel Surendra Prasad Singh said: “Giving him this harsh punishment is tantamount to awarding him the death sentence owing to his age, respect in society and the position he held. He has a clean record. As railway minister, he has set a record of growth. He is suffering from many diseases and he has suffered agony for the past 17 years as the CBI dragged the case.”
Special CBI prosecutor B.M.P. Singh countered the argument. “Corruption in high places is intolerable. Seldom are such high and mighty successfully tried and prosecuted in corruption cases. Harsh punishment to them will send a message to society.”
As Lalu Prasad’s turn came around 2.20pm, the judge paused for a moment and a hush descended on the courtroom. “Lalu Prasad Yadav, accused No. 20, is given five years of rigorous jail term and Rs 25 lakh as fine,” the judge said.
On Monday, Lalu Prasad was held guilty under several sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Rs 25-lakh fine has been imposed under the anti-graft act and the IPC.
Speaking after the proceedings were over, the RJD chief’s lawyers Surendra Prasad Singh and Rajniti Prasad termed the sentence and the judge “highly biased”.
“We never expected this. It is too much. We will file an appeal before Jharkhand High Court on October 17 after the Durga Puja vacation,” Prasad, also an RJD leader, said.
rabri speaks out
Rabri Devi stayed at home on Thursday, watching on
television the news of her husband’s sentencing. Elder son Tej Pratap was with her while the younger Tejaswi was in Ranchi. Later, speaking to PTI, she expressed “deep pain” over the verdict and said Lalu Prasad
remained in charge of the party
What she said
On succession plans
Lalu Prasad is a hero and will remain a hero
in future too. All talk
of a successor is
will continue to lead
On Tejaswi taking
Tejaswi and Tej Pratap are sons of Laluji and not that of a neighbour. They have the duty to serve the party their