| Lalu Prasad
Patna, March 22: Patna High Court today issued notices to railway minister Lalu Prasad and former chief minister Rabri Devi asking them why a Bihar government appeal against their earlier acquittal in a corruption case should not be entertained.
The bench of Justice R.K. Dutta also asked the state government to present before it all documents in the matter within two weeks. While Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi have 14 days to reply, the CBI, which had filed the FIR in what came to be known as “DA Case”, made its stand clear today.
Appearing for CBI, additional solicitor-general Gopal Subramaniam said the investigating agency was pressing for quashing of the case because, according to him, the Bihar government has no right to appeal in this matter. Subramaniam argued that CBI undertakes probe either on a request of a state government made through the Centre or on the directive of a court. He said since it was the CBI which investigated the DA case on a directive of Patna High Court, only the investigating agency had a right to go into appeal, and also so because the state’s consent in the matter was not taken.
Although it was not clear if the issuance of notices amounted to CBI plea being rejected by the court, the bench observed that the consent of the state in the matter was deemed to have been taken. A senior lawyer said, while the CBI’s plea could still be alive because it was not unequivocally rejected today, for all “practical purposes” the serving of notices meant that the hearing in the matter had begun. “Much would depend on how the court views the replies that Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi would be furnishing in two weeks,” he added.
Appearing for the state, senior counsel Harish Salve cited earlier Supreme Court rulings to justify its (state’s) right to appeal. He said the CBI was defending the acquittal of the same people for whose conviction it fought.
Salve cited the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to defend the state government’s right to go into appeal since the offence in the matter had taken within Bihar’s geographical boundary. The counsel also contended that the lower court did not consider the evidence in the matter and acquitted the couple on the basis of a ruling of the Income-Tax Tribunal.
The DA case had been lodged by CBI’s anti-corruption branch here on a directive of Patna High Court, which was monitoring the progress of trial in the multi-crore fodder swindle that still has Lalu Prasad as an accused in six cases of defalcation. It is, therefore, said to be an offshoot of the infamous fodder scam.
Registered in 1998 and relating to the period 1990-1997 when Lalu Prasad was chief minister, the DA case pertains to the minister allegedly amassing wealth over Rs 46 lakh, beyond his known sources of income, and Rabri Devi was alleged to have abetted the crime.
On December 18, 2006, a special CBI court of Munilal Paswan acquitted the couple of all charges because he had found them “not guilty”. The CBI itself wanted to go into an appeal but the Union government, of which Lalu Prasad is a crucial part, did not grant it permission.