Fodder Scam Convict Lalu Yadav Faces Grim Prospect Of Going Back To Prison

Fodder Scam Convict Lalu Yadav Faces Grim Prospect Of Going Back To Prison
Lalu Prasad Yadav
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  • The Doranda treasury case is the biggest among all the fodder scam cases as it involves the maximum number of accused (170), the highest amount of alleged defalcation and the highest number of prosecution witnesses.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav may go back to prison if he is convicted in one more fodder scam case.

The special CBI court in Ranchi has ordered a day-to-day hearing of the Doranda Treasury case from Friday (13 August). This case, like the other fodder scam cases, also relates to siphoning off Rs 139.35 crore from the Doranda treasury in 1995-96 when Yadav was the chief minister of Bihar.

Hundreds of bureaucrats, businessmen and politicians siphoned off an estimated Rs 1,000 crore (present-day value is about Rs 5,469 crore, taking inflation into account) by submitting false bills pertaining to the purchase of fodder, medicines and animal husbandry equipment for vast herds of fictitious livestock.

The scam continued through successive governments headed by Jagannath Mishra and then Lalu Yadav and despite red flags raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and other accounting authorities.

The Doranda treasury case is the biggest among all the fodder scam cases as it involves the maximum number of accused (170), the highest amount of alleged defalcation and the highest number of prosecution witnesses.

Lalu Yadav has been convicted and has also served sentences in other fodder scam cases involving treasuries in other parts of what was then undivided Bihar (Jharkhand was carved out of the state in 2000).

Among the 170 accused in this case, sixty—including former chief minister Jagannath Mishra of the Congress—have died.

The prosecution completed its arguments on the Doranda treasury case on 7 August. Since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic, all the hearings were conducted virtually.

But lawyers representing 89 of the 110 accused (who are still alive) urged the court on 9 August to defer the hearings citing difficulty in presenting “voluminous” documents virtually.

The defence is to cross-examine prosecution witnesses and present evidence next.

Rejecting the defence lawyers’ submissions, the special CBI court asked them to begin their final arguments from Friday. The court also said that it would conduct hearings daily.

The court, however, allowed a limited number of defence lawyers to show the documents in physical form while following Covid-19 guidelines. Besides, a maximum of five lawyers can also argue in person, it said.

The RJD chief has been convicted in all the four separate fodder scam cases relating to fraudulent withdrawals of large sums of money from the Deoghar, Dumka and Chaibasa treasuries and has served prison terms.

He was released from jail only in end-April of this year after completing only a truncated prison term. Since then, he has been living in Delhi with his daughter Misha Bharati who is a Rajya Sabha MP.

As in the other fodder scam cases, the evidence collected by the CBI and the charge sheet submitted by it against all accused, especially Yadav, is very strong, and the prosecution team is very confident of Yadav’s conviction.

If, as is being widely speculated, Lalu Yadav is convicted and sent back to prison, it will deal a huge blow to the RJD, which had emerged as the single largest party in Bihar in last year’s Assembly elections.

Yadav’s son and heir Tejashwi has been trying his level best to shake off the fodder scam taint. He has tried to, very subtly but firmly, disassociate the RJD from his father and the scam.

But Yadav’s impending conviction will bring back dark memories of the scam and will give the NDA a big stick to beat the RJD within the campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The RJD’s allies, including the Congress, will also suffer since the accused in this case also include Congress leaders.

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