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Contempt notice after caste slur

RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh outside the
CBI court in Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra

Ranchi: A special CBI court postponed to Thursday sentencing of Lalu Prasad, who has been held guilty in a fodder scam case, but initiated contempt proceedings against his son Tejashwi Yadav and two other RJD leaders for questioning the December 23 judgment that they alleged was influenced by caste considerations.

CBI judge Shivpal Singh, who was to announce the sentence for Lalu and 15 others in fodder case RC 64A/96, has now asked RJD leaders Tejashwi, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Shivanand Tiwari, and Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari to appear before the court on January 23 to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them.

Only Lalu, who arrived at 10.50am, and Raghuvansh were present in court.

Judge Singh, who took the chair at 11.05am, was initially supposed to announce the sentence immediately. But once Ranchi Bar Association general secretary Sanjay Vidrohi said lawyers would not be attending hearings in the second half of the day as one of their colleagues had died, he then decided to announce the sentence on Thursday.

After extending New Year wishes to all those present, Judge Singh spoke out. " Netalog mendhak ki tarah tarr tarr karte rahte hain, thode din jail me rahengey to thik ho jayenge. Kam se kam court ko toh chhod dijiye. Ye kya hai kuch se kuch bayan de rahe hain. Kisi ne bola ki Laluji agar Mishra hote to saja nahin hoti, (Leaders are croaking like frogs. Let them spend some time in jail. What is this? The leaders are making baseless statements. Someone claimed that had Lalu been a Mishra, he would have been acquitted)," the judge said.

Lalu and others were held guilty in the case relating to illegal withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from the Deoghar treasury against an allotment of Rs 4.73 lakh using 250 vouchers and 17 fake allotment letters between 1991 and 1994. But former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra was acquitted.

A senior lawyer present in court said the court was upset at the leaders for issuing statements to the effect that Lalu's conviction was a political conspiracy against a leader belonging to a backward community. "Questioning the judgment on political and caste lines is akin to casting aspersions on the court. But let us wait for the written order to understand the exact nature of statements that were issued by the leaders," the lawyer said.

Lalu looked befuddled as judge Singh pronounced the order. " Ab kya hua, kaun kya sab bola hai ji kuch samajh me nahin aa raha hai.(What happened? Who said what? I can't understand what's going on)," the RJD chief whispered to Raghuvansh.

Lalu's lawyers Chitranjan Sinha and Prabhat Kumar tried to explain that sometimes leaders were coaxed into making seemingly provocative statements by the media. They requested the judge to at least record final arguments on the sentencing on Wednesday.

Raghuvansh said he could not fathom why the court was upset with them.

"With due respect to the judiciary we will reply to the notice when we get it. But what did we say? On what ground has Jagannath Mishra been acquitted? Lalu ji is paying the price for being honest and for carrying on a fight against feudal mindsets," the senior RJD leader told The Telegraph.

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