The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CBI backs Laloo in meddling case

New Delhi, Dec. 7: The CBI today gave a clean chit to Union railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi on a petition alleging that the accused had interfered in the probe and trial of the fodder scam and disproportionate assets cases.

The bureau termed the petition filed in the Supreme Court, seeking the cancellation of Laloo Prasad and Rabri Devi's bail pleas, as 'politically motivated'.

BJP MP from Bihar Sushil Modi and Janata Dal (United) leader Rajiv Ranjan Singh 'Lallan' had filed the petition praying that the bail pleas be cancelled because the accused had interfered with the probe and trial of the cases.

The petition alleged that since the United Progressive Alliance government, of which Laloo Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal is a constituent, came to power, efforts were made to scuttle the probe by shifting the investigating officers and public prosecutors to 'shield' Laloo Prasad and Rabri Devi.

In its affidavit, the CBI told the Supreme Court that the allegation was 'completely false and not at all borne out from the facts and records of the case'. It questioned the petitioners' locus standi, saying they were politicians and 'obviously seeking to achieve (their) own political purposes'.

Describing the development as 'unfortunate', Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar and former information and broadcasting minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: 'This means the entire impartiality of the CBI is becoming seriously suspect'. But he sounded uncertain when asked if the NDA would make an issue of the CBI's affidavit in Parliament. 'The matter is sub judice, so we will have to see.'

Prasad said the investigation in the fodder scam was done by the CBI under the order of the apex court and the monitoring of Patna High Court. 'We have it from authoritative sources that some CBI officials themselves were concerned at the manner in which the case was handled by the new government.'

He questioned the CBI's plea about the petition being 'politically motivated' on the grounds that in 1996, Modi was the original petitioner in the fodder scam when he was the leader of Opposition in the Bihar legislature.

In private, BJP sources conceded that the legal tangle was unlikely to have a bearing on the forthcoming Bihar elections. 'The fodder scam is a dead issue. We squeezed it dry in every election since 1996 with no dramatic impact,' they said. They admitted that the strategy to 'demonise' Laloo Prasad enhanced his stock among his core supporters and showed him up as a 'victim of upper caste conspiracy'.

BJP sources also felt that the CBI's move reflected the Congress' 'vulnerability' vis-a-vis Laloo Prasad. 'For all the talk that the Congress will break off from the alliance with the RJD and float a separate front, the Centre is willing to play ball with him because if he pulls out, the government will start tottering,' a BJP leader said.

In a separate submission before the apex court, Laloo Prasad said the PIL filed by Modi and 'Lallan' was meant to 'satisfy their personal grudge and enmities'. 'We are law-abiding citizens and have never violated any terms and conditions imposed by the honourable courts and have never misused the privilege of bail.'

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