SC agrees to hear Lalu Prasad’s bail plea, seeks CBI’s reply

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NEW DELHI, March 15 (AGENCIES): The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s bail plea in three cases related to the multi-crore-rupee fodder scam, in which he has been convicted. Prasad told the top court that he had been in jail for 22 months following his conviction in the three cases. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and sought its response within two weeks.

Appearing for the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) supremo, senior advocate Kapil Sibal told the bench that Prasad was sentenced to three-and-a-half years, 14 years and five years in prison in the three cases respectively.

“I was convicted in the three cases based on the same evidence and under the same offences. I have already served 22 months in jail. “How can I be convicted three times for the same offence, based on the same evidence?,” Sibal asked the court. The bench asked Sibal about the offences for which Prasad was convicted.

“I have been convicted under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) of the IPC and section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act,” the lawyer said. The bench then asked the CBI to file its reply on Prasad’s bail plea.

The RJD chief, currently lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, has challenged the January 10 verdict of the Jharkhand High Court dismissing his bail plea. The three cases in which Prasad has been convicted are related to the over-Rs 900-crore fodder scam, which pertains to fraudulent withdrawal of money from the treasuries in the Animal Husbandry department in the early 1990s, when Jharkhand was part of Bihar. The RJD was in power in Bihar with Prasad as the chief minister when the scam had allegedly taken place.

In the high court, the RJD supremo had cited old age and poor health for grant of bail. Prasad (71) had said he was suffering from diabetes, blood pressure and other ailments and that he had already obtained bail in one of the fodder scam cases.

He has been convicted for fraudulent withdrawal of money from the Deoghar, Dumka and two Chaibasa treasuries situated in Jharkhand. He is currently facing trial in another fodder scam case pertaining to the Doranda treasury.

The RJD chief has been undergoing treatment at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) at Ranchi for the last few months.

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