The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo at court's door over judge

New Delhi, May 3: Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has 'apprehensions' over the composition of a Patna High Court bench that will decide whether he should be prosecuted in a disproportionate assets case. He appealed to a Supreme Court bench today for a private meeting with its judges so that he could express his doubts 'in confidence'.

'If the respondent's (Laloo Prasad's) wishes and apprehension in the matter have any relevance, he is prepared to communicate them in confidence for consideration in chambers and not in the open court,' the application moved by his counsel B.B. Singh said.

The case relates to a plea for sanction to criminally prosecute the minister, moved by Janata Dal (United) leader Rajiv Ranjan Lallan and BJP leader Sushil Modi. Laloo Prasad has challenged the petition before a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice S.N. Variava, which last week formed a division bench of Patna High Court to hear the matter.

Justice Variava had earlier created a stir, observing in open court that 'someone from the Patna High Court' had 'approached' him with a query about whether a judge trying a case involving Laloo Prasad could be shifted. But he later declared he was 'satisfied' that the person was only seeking an 'academic' clarification. Variava then ordered the constitution of the two-judge Patna High Court bench, headed by Justice Aftab Alam.

Then, after a gap, the Supreme Court named Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad as the other judge on the bench and asked it to dispose of the petition within 30 days.

The minister's application, which comes up for hearing on Friday, says he has 'no objection' to Justice Alam, adding: 'It is true that his counsel did not object when one of the two names were mentioned.' It is Justice Prasad that Laloo Prasad wants to discuss in private with the apex court judges.

Lallan and Modi have alleged that Laloo Prasad has been using his clout to water down the charges against him, threatening witnesses and tampering with evidence in the fodder scam cases, and wangling a clean chit in a tax case by shifting an official and appointing an appellate board to decide in his favour.

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