The Supreme Court will pronounce on Monday its verdict on a CBI appeal to revive criminal conspiracy charges against former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad in one of the cases pertaining to the fodder scam.
Prasad has been convicted in a separate fodder scam case, part of 20-year racket to bleed public funds of more than Rs 900 crore. It earned him a 5-year sentence, disqualification from Parliament and a ban from contesting election.
Monday’s ruling is on an appeal against Jharkhand high court order dropping charges of criminal conspiracy against Prasad. The HC had held that a person once convicted or acquitted cannot be tried for the same offence again. The CBI challenged the order in the apex court eight months later, where Prasad’s counsel opposed it for being filed too late.
A ruling against Prasad could weaken his position in the Bihar government, where his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) is in an alliance with Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United), particularly after rivals recently targeted him and his family for acquiring a mall in Patna through front companies.
A bench of Justice Arun Kumar Misra and Justice Amitava Kumar Roy will read out the judgement at 10:30 am. The two had reserved it on April 20, after giving a detailed hearing to all parties involved in the case.
A special CBI court in Ranchi had convicted Prasad and 44 others on September, 2013 over fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore from Chaibasa treasury as part of the con to embezzle funds from the exchequer for fictitious medicines and fodder for cattle. The scam came to light in 1996.
SC granted him bail in December the same year. His appeal against the conviction is pending before the HC.
The case in which the top court will deliver its judgement pertains to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 96 lakh during the RJD chief’s chief ministerial tenure.
The Jharkhand high court had dropped proceedings against Prasad under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including criminal conspiracy charges. The HC permitted the trial court to continue the case against the former Bihar CM only under IPC sections 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of an offence committed or giving false information) and 511 (attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or imprisonment, and in such attempt doing any act towards the commission of the offence).
CBI argued before the top court that the HC’s reasoning was not sustainable because different FIRs were registered against Prasad in the fodder scam. Each case involved a separate conspiracy and chain of events. Therefore, the agency said, conviction of Prasad in one case cannot free him from facing trial under the same charges in another FIR.