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SC sounds CBI on Lalu bail

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear the bail plea of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, undergoing a five-year jail term after being convicted in a fodder scam case, and sought response from the CBI.

The bench of chief justice P. Sathasivam and justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the CBI, the prosecuting agency in the fodder scam case, to file its response within two weeks and posted the case for hearing to December 13.

Appearing for Lalu, senior advocate Ram Jethmalani submitted that the RJD chief was one among the 44 accused convicted in the case but he was the only person whose bail plea was rejected by the trial court and the high court. He contended that so far 37 convicts had been granted bail in the case and no one’s bail plea had been rejected.

He also submitted that it would take a long time for Jharkhand High Court to dispose of his appeal against conviction.

Lalu, whose membership of Parliament was taken away after being convicted in the case, has moved the apex court challenging the Jharkhand High Court order dismissing his bail plea.

A special CBI court on September 30 convicted the RJD chief, another former chief minister, Jagannath Mishra, and 43 others in the fodder scam case involving fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury during the Lalu-led RJD regime. The CBI court had pronounced varying prison terms for the convicted persons on October 3.

In his bail petition, the RJD chief said: “No reason has been given by the court for the rejection of bail. The petitioner has been treated differently in the matter of granting bail in as much as some of the co-accused, as stated above, who are similarly situated, have been granted bail.”

Pleading for bail, he has submitted that he had spent nearly 10 months in jail during trial and nearly two months after the September conviction. He said there was no chance of him absconding from the country after getting bail. “That the petitioner was the chief minister of the state of Bihar, the railway minister, is also the leader of a political party and until the date of his conviction in the present case, was a sitting MP, hence, is not likely to abscond from the country,” the petition has said.

“It is thus respectfully submitted that the impugned order is unsustainable in law. It is also inconsistent that some of the persons, who are co-accused and have been convicted with him in the same case, have been granted bail while he has been singled out,” it has said.