IRCTC scam : Delhi court grants bail to Lalu Yadav, Rabri Devi and son

A Delhi court Monday granted bail to RJD chief Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Yadav in a money laundering case related to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) scam.

Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj granted relief to each of the accused persons on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and surety of like amounts.

The court had on January 19 extended the interim bail granted to the them which ended Monday.

The case relates to alleged money laundering in granting the operational contract of two IRCTC hotels to a private firm.

The court had earlier granted bail to them in the IRCTC scam case filed by the CBI.

According to the charge sheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), between 2004 and 2014, a conspiracy was hatched in pursuance of which BNR hotels of the Indian Railways, located in Puri and Ranchi, were first transferred to IRCTC and later, for its operations, maintenance and upkeep, given on lease to Sujata Hotels Private Limited, which is based in Patna, Bihar.

It is alleged that the tender process was rigged and manipulated and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party – Sujata Hotels.

Based on the CBI case, the ED had also lodged a case of money laundering against Prasad, Devi, Yadav and others.

Among others named in the chargesheet are – then group general managers of IRCTC V K Asthana and R K Goyal and Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar, both directors of Sujata Hotels and owners of Chanakya Hotel.

Delight Marketing Company, now known as Lara Projects, and Sujata Hotels Private Limited have also been named as accused firms in the chargesheet.

In 2001, it was decided to handover the management of catering services of the Indian Railways, including of its hotels, to the IRCTC. Two such hotels – BNR Hotels in Ranchi and Puri – were also identified and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the railways and the IRCTC on March 19, 2004.

According to an FIR flied by the CBI, Prasad, the then railway minister, entered into criminal conspiracy with the owner of Sujata Hotels, Sarla Gupta, wife of his close associate Prem Chand Gupta, a Rashtriya Janata Dal MP in Rajya Sabha, and IRCTC officials for “undue pecuniary advantage to himself and others”.

The probe agency also alleged that BNR hotels were transferred to Sujata Hotels through a “rigged and manipulated” tender process managed by P K Goyal, the then managing director of IRCTC.

The CBI inquiry shows that the railways sought bids for developing, operating and maintaining Rail Ratna Hotels on September 16, 2006.

The probe agency has alleged that Prasad was aware about the whole process and was keeping a track of the tender proceedings.

It surfaced that while over 15 bid documents were received for both the hotels, IRCTC had no records of bidders other than Sujata Hotels.

It was also alleged that with an intention to render undue pecuniary gains to Sujata Hotels, the bid of another hotel was deliberately and unreasonably given low marks under technical evaluation.

Prasad became Bihar’s chief minister in 1990, but had to resign in 1997 following corruption charges in the multi-crore rupees fodder scam. From 1997 to 2005 his wife Devi was the chief minister of the state and was replaced by JD(U) president Nitish Kumar.

Prasad also served as railway minister from 2004 to 2009.

The RJD again came back to power after forging an alliance with its bitter rival Janata Dal (United), led by Kumar, in 2015, and Tejashwi Yadav became the deputy chief minister. However, Kumar parted ways from the RJD in July last year.

The RJD chief has been serving sentence in Ranchi jail since December 2017 following his conviction in fodder scam cases.

Earlier this month, the Jharkhand High court had rejected the bail plea of Prasad in three fodder scam cases.

Lalu Prasad held guilty in fodder scam, sentencing Oct 3

Bringing to end one of India’s longest-running corruption cases, a court in the Jharkhand capital Monday convicted RJD chief Lalu Prasad and 44 others for illegal withdrawal of millions of rupees from the then undivided Bihar’s animal husbandry department in the early 1990s, in what is popularly known as the fodder scam.

The BJP Monday hailed the verdict as justice for Bihar’s people, while Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal admitted the party’s future was at stake. Convicted for forgery, cheating, falsification of accounts and conspiracy, among other offences, and offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the former Bihar chief minister faces a maximum of seven years jail.

“Special Judge Pravas Kumar Singh found all the 45 accused guilty,” a CBI lawyer told reporters. The quantum of sentence against Lalu Prasad and 37 convicts will be announced Oct 3. Eight convicts were sentenced Monday itself.

Those convicted also included former chief minister Jagannath Mishra of the Congress and Janata Dal-United MP Jagdish Sharma, for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.377 million from the district treasury in Chaibasa, now in Jharkhand after the state’s division in 2000.

The case is related to alleged fraudulent withdrawal of money from the treasury during 1994-95 using forged letters and spurious bills, raised without the actual supply of medicines, instruments, maize and groundnut cake to the husbandry officer of Chaibasa, the CBI said.

After the day’s proceedings, Lalu Prasad was sent to Birsa Munda central jail in Ranchi. His eldest son Tejsavi told reporters that the judgment would be challenged in a higher court. Lalu Prasad reached Ranchi Sunday along with Tejasvi by plane and stayed in the railway guest house.

On way to court in the morning, he offered prayers at the Durga temple on Ranchi’s Ratu Road. RJD leaders, including Lok Sabha member Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Prabhunath Singh and Lalu’s brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav, were present in the courtroom when the judgment was pronounced.

The verdict is crucial for Lalu Prasad and his political future since the central government ordinance that would have shielded convicted parliamentarians and legislators from disqualification may be withdrawn after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi trashed it.

BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy called it justice for the 10 crore people of Bihar, while Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley accused the central government of trying to shield the RJD leader through an ordinance.

“It is a historic judgment and a justice day for the 10 crore people of Bihar,” Rudy told reporters in New Delhi. Lalu Prasad’s wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi alleged that he has become a victim of an opposition conspiracy, and asserted that in his absence, she and her two sons will lead the RJD and work hard to strengthen the party.

“Laluji has become a victim of opposition conspiracy,” Rabri Devi told media persons at her official residence in Patna. Publicly, RJD leaders putting up a brave face, saying the party was united, but admitted the development was a major setback at a time when the RJD was seemingly gaining ground it had lost in Bihar.

There were a total of 56 accused in the case. But during the trial, seven accused died, two turned approvers, one admitted to the crime and one was discharged. The court earlier fixed July 15 as the date for verdict, and asked the 45 accused to be present in the court.

But Lalu Prasad moved the Jharkhand High Court and later the Supreme Court, seeking change of the judge due to alleged bias against him. Both courts dismissed his petition, and directed him to complete his arguments in the trial court.

The CBI registered the case March 27, 1996 on the apex court’s direction and took over investigation in the case, earlier registered by Bihar Police at Chaibasa Police Station Feb 2, 1996.

Lalu Prasad quit the chief minister’s post in 1997 when his name figured in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the scam. Around 54 of the 61 cases were transferred to Jharkhand from Bihar.

Different CBI courts have passed judgments in more than 43 cases. Lalu Prasad and Mishra were named as accused in five cases.

(Source: IANS)

Lalu Prasad begins arguments in fodder scam case

Arguments on behalf of RJD chief Lalu Prasad on Monday began in a case related to multi-million-rupee lapses in Bihar animal husbandry department, popularly known as the fodder scam.

The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader’s lawyer presented his arguments in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court in Ranchi.

The lawyer told the court that the case was filed on the instructions of Lalu Prasad, a former Bihar chief minister, when the scam was brought to his notice in 1996.

 He alleged Lalu Prasad was implicated in the case. Lalu Prasad earlier moved the Supreme Court alleging bias in the trial and sought the transfer of the proceedings to another court.

The plea was rejected by the apex court which asked the Ranchi court to complete the arguments in the trial.

The CBI court had earlier fixed July 15 for verdict but the decision was put off after the RJD chief moved the Jharkhand High Court and the apex court alleging bias.

The case is related to alleged fraudulent withdrawal of Rs.37.70 crore from Chaibasa treasury, which now is part of Jharkhand. The 45 accused included Lalu Prasad and former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra.

The scam in Bihar surfaced in 1996. Around 54 of the 61 cases were transferred to Jharkhand when it was carved out of Bihar in November 2000.

Parties concerned over SC’s criminal candidates order

Political arties united Thursday against a Supreme Court order on criminals in politics and wanted the government to address the issue during the monsoon session of parliament.
Leaders belonging to the Left parties, theBharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal(RJD) expressed concern over the implications of the court order that disqualifies a legislator if convicted in a criminal case and bars him from contesting the polls if under arrest.

They said the government should address the issue as misuse of the law could be rampant just before any election.

“We want a discussion on the apex court order,” CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia said after an all-party meeting called by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath.

The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad, JD-U president Sharad Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad also expressed their concern.

They also expressed concern over another Supreme Court order that bars reservations in super-speciality courses in medical colleges.

“The reservation issue has been settled. Why do the courts have to pass an order on it time and again. They give such orders, so the session may be disrupted,” said Sharad Yadav.

“Leaders expressed serious concerns on the SC orders and erosion of supremacy of parliament,” said Kamal Nath.

Besides, other issues raised by opposition leaders were debates on food security ordinance, land acquisition bill, judicial commission, condition of economy, rampant corruption in the mid-day meal scheme and floods in Uttarakhand.

Agreeing that judicial commission on appointment of judges was required, Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party would also like to raise the ongoing tussle between the CBI and the IB in the Ishrat Jahan shootout case.

“Consensus on the food ordinance will be evolved after the debate,” said Sharad Yadav.

“We will support the food ordinance,” said Lalu Prasad.

The all-party meet, attended by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Home Minister Sushil kumar Shinde, was called to discuss smooth functioning of the monsoon session of parliament from August 5.

“We had a constructive meeting. The parties agreed on smooth running of parliament,” said Kamal Nath.

(Source: IANS)

Lalu seeks transfer of fodder case

The counsel for RJD chief Lalu Prasad today informed the court of Special CBI judge Pravas Kumar Singh that arguments on behalf of his client be stopped till the high court, before which transfer of a fodder case has been sought to some other special court, gave an order.

A petition has been filed by Prasad in the Jharkhand High Court seeking transfer of a fodder scam case against 44 accused, including himself, to another special court as he did not expect justice from the special CBI judge Pravas Kumar Singh.

The special court was to deliver the verdict on July 15 in the case relating to the alleged fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa Treasury in the 1990s.

Prasad’s counsel, Supreme Court advocate Surendra Kumar Singh said that his client did not expect justice from the court as the judge was allegedly a relative of two Janata Dal(U) leaders, “who are his political opponents”.

The special CBI court has been hearing arguments for the last one month and had on June 20 directed the accused, including Prasad, to complete arguments by July 1 and fixed July 15 to deliver the verdict.

 Besides Prasad, former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra, senior government officials, including IAS officers, and fodder suppliers were to appear before the court on the date.

Contacted, a senior CBI official said, “We were expecting such a move from the accused.” As of May 31 this year, verdicts were delivered in 44 of the 53 cases in the Rs 950 crore fodder scam, which was unearthed during the undivided Bihar regime.


Stop victimisation of Muslim youths

Several activists and political leaders, including CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat and RJD chief Lalu Prasad, has demanded that “the harassment and victimisation of innocent Muslims youths” by security agencies in the name of fighting terror be stopped.

In a convention on “Politics of Terror”, organised here by representatives of Left and other political parties, they asked the government to stop the arrests of “innocent Muslim youths”.

Various universities lecturers, Political leaders, human rights activists, lawyers and professors has been participated in the convention.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad said: “The situation is deteriorating day by day for the Muslim community.” Police is targeting Bihar’s Muslim youths, he said.

“After Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, Bihar’s Muslim youths are on the hit-list of police and central agencies,” Yadav alleged at the meet.

Districts of Bihar like Sitamarhi, Madhubani and recently Darbhanga have witnessed such arrests.

Darbhanga’s native Fasih Mahmood, an alleged Indian Mujahideen operative was arrested by Delhi Police on charges of a 2010 bombing incident at Jama Masjid here.

The 35-year-old engineer from Bihar, employed in Saudi Arabia, was arrested at Delhi airport Oct 22 when he arrived after his deportation from that country.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Karat said: “The agencies are misusing the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). The Muslim youths are their soft target. Those youths are arrested on allegations of terror (and are) very easily booked under this law.”

Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) president Ramvilas Paswan, CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan and independent member of the Rajya Sabha Mohd. Adeeb also condemned the arrests of Muslim youths.

They also said, “Several Muslim youths have been acquitted by the courts in the past few years after they were found innocent of terror charges.”