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CBI court warrants for Lalu witnesses

Ranchi, May 30: A CBI special court today issued bailable warrant against Ashok Kumar, caretaker of the Bihar chief ministerís secretariat, after he failed to turn up as a witness in defence of Lalu Prasad in a fodder scam case.

The court also did not spare A.P. Dorai, retired director general, Railway Protection Force and a witness for the former Bihar chief minister.

It issued fresh summons directing Dorai, who wished to appear in court in July, to be present on June 7 along with Kumar. Dorai had enquired into the CBI officersí abortive bid to seek the armyís help for the arrest of Lalu Prasad.

The case (RC/20) involves bigwigs, including Lalu and Jagannath Mishra, also a former Bihar chief minister.

It is the first case in which the CBI has concluded the production of witnesses, raising hope that the high profile accused are brought to justice.

Dorai, currently based in Chennai, figures on the list of 79 witnesses named by Lalu in his defence after the CBI exhausted its list of witnesses in November last year in a bid to take the long-pending case to its conclusion.

However, the court of district-cum-special judge (CBI) P.K. Singh, on March 17, pruned the list to 13 and directed him to examine them between March 22 and April 19 on day-to-day basis.

Lalu challenged the special courtís ruling in Jharkhand High Court, which set aside the trial courtís order on May 19, saying it suffered from illegality as it had not assigned any reason while drastically pruning the list.

The high court, however, referred the case to the trial court, directing it to pass an order in accordance with law.

Legal experts said the high court should have decided the case itself. The decision to refer the case had given scope to either party ó Lalu or CBI ó to move the high court again if it was not satisfied with the trial courtís fresh order.

The RJD leaderís lawyer, Prabhat Kumar, today submitted a petition saying a fresh list of 70 witnesses would be filed on June 13.

The trial court has continued examining the witnesses, as the 13 shortlisted by it were among the 79 furnished by Lalu only.

Special public prosecutor B.N.P. Singh said the long list of witnesses was filed only for delaying the trial, which had to be speeded in view of the orders of monitoring bench of Jharkhand High Court.

He pointed out that the trial court, under Section 243(2) of the Criminal Procedure Code, was empowered to trim the list if it found that it had been produced ďfor the purpose of vexation or delay or for defeating the ends of justiceĒ.

Laluís witnesses included senior IAS officer Rajbala Verma, IPS officer Sunil Kumar, brigadier R.P. Nautiyal, former MPs Raghubath Jha, Sita Ram Singh, Sita Ram Yadav, MPs Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav, Ram Kripal Yadav, retired IAS (then officer-on-special-duty to Bihar chief minister) Mahavir Prasad, Chatra MP Inder Singh Namdhari and Mukund Prasad, former principal secretary to Bihar CM.

RJD MLAs of Jharkhand Sanjay Singh Yadav, Suresh Pawan, Annapurna Devi and Sanjay Prasad Yadav also on the list, besides principals of Jamshedpur-based Mahila College Shukla Mohanti and Bishop Westcott School, Ranchi, Basant Sadanand Nag.

Interestingly, of the 13 witnesses only three have been examined during the last 45 days. They are Rajeev Jain, deputy secretary, central department of personnel, Ezaz Hussain, a lawyer, and Durga Prasad, an assistant, Bihar secretariat.

The long-drawn trial in the important fodder scam case was supposed to be concluded by April-May after the special court concluded examining all its 348 witnesses produced by the CBI on November 29, 2011.