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Nitish gets CBI clean-chit

Ranchi, Nov. 22: The CBI today filed an affidavit in Jharkhand High Court, saying no legal action could be made out against Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and JD(U) MP Shivanand Tiwari over allegations that they received fodder scam money.

Witnesses who initially said Nitish and Tiwari took ill-gotten money later withdrew their statements, the affidavit confirms. Therefore, the CBI has argued there is no case against the duo.

A relieved JD(U) has said the CBI affidavit was proof there was no evidence against Nitish and Tiwari.

But the affidavit could trigger a political storm in Bihar with the Opposition already gunning for Nitish over the serial blasts on October 27 when the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, addressed a rally.

Former chief minister Rabri Devi fired the first salvo, saying Nitish should step down. “The CBI is protecting Nitish Kumar. A proper investigation should be conducted against the two. The witnesses must have withdrawn their statements against the two under pressure,” Rabri said.

The CBI, in its affidavit filed by DSP Ajay Kumar Jha, said in the course of investigation of the fodder scam cases, it had recorded the statements of witnesses Umesh Singh (a vigilance section officer), Vijay Mallick (supplier) and R.K. Das (animal husbandry official). All three witnesses had confessed before the CBI investigating officer that the fodder case kingpin, SB Sinha (now deceased), had given money to Nitish and Tiwari, the affidavit says.

While witness Umesh is said to have paid Rs 1 crore to Nitish, Mallick and Das allegedly gave Rs 40 lakh. Air tickets for Australia and a sum of Rs 5 lakh for shopping in Delhi were also provided to Nitish by the witnesses, the affidavit says. Tiwari, then with the RJD and now a JD(U) Rajya Sabha member, was given Rs 70 lakh for the marriage of his daughter, the CBI said.

But, while recording statements before the special CBI court, which was conducting the trial of the case, the three witnesses made a U-turn.

They retracted their statements made earlier before the CBI investigating officer. The special court, left with no alternative, could not record the statements of the witnesses. Hence, no case could be made out against Nitish and Tiwari, CBI counsel Mokhtar Khan said in the high court today.

The matter had come up on a criminal writ filed by one Mithilesh Kumar Singh, who argued that Nitish and Tiwari, who have been a clean chit by the CBI, should be arraigned as accused in the fodder scam.

Arguing on behalf of the petitioner, advocate B.B. Pandey said there was direct evidence with the agency that both Nitish and Tiwari were guilty of receiving money from persons accused in the case and should have forwarded their names before the court to proceed against them.

The case will again be heard on December 13.

Asked if PILs or writs would affect cases already disposed by courts or those in the hearing stages, DSP Jha played safe. “Let higher courts decide. As an investigating officer, it is my personal opinion that this was filed deliberately to lengthen the probe. I don’t think it will affect the cases. We can’t start probe based on wild allegations,” he said.

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