The special CBI court in Ranchi on Friday completed the hearing on the quantum of punishment for former Bihar CM and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) President Lalu Prasad Yadav in a fodder scam related case, though the sentence announcement was deferred yet again as the hearing of six more convicts is yet to take place.
The RJD chief was presented for the hearing in the court of special judge Shiv Pal Singh through video conferencing from jail, due to security reasons, and his sentence is also likely to be pronounced the same way.
“The sentence hearing of five of the convicts was completed on Friday while five had been heard on Thursday. On Saturday, the hearing of the remaining six convicts will commence at 2pm. Only when the hearing of all 16 accused is complete, will the judge pronounce the matter. It can be expected on Saturday, but may be deferred if the judge wants more time to peruse through the case,” one of the defence lawyers told reporters outside the court.
According to sources, Lalu’s lawyers pleaded minimum punishment for the former Bihar CM citing his old age and health issues such as diabetes. They also added that Lalu had no direct role in the scam, has always cooperated in legal procedures and obeyed all orders. However, the CBI counsel countered this argument and sought maximum punishment saying Lalu had committed a grave offence and that his health seemed fine as he was politically active and participated in rallies etc.
Massive security deployment had been made in the court premises as a big crowd of Lalu’s supporters had gathered. Sources said the decision for video conferencing was taken at the eleventh hour to avoid any untoward incident.
Lalu and 15 others were held guilty on December 23 in the case, which pertains to fraudulent withdrawals of around Rs 89 lakh from the Deoghar district treasury between 1990 and 1994, a part of the Rs 1,000 crore fodder scam in which government funds were embezzled in the name of cattle feed and medicines and equipment for animal husbandry.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has decided to go ahead with its scheduled meeting of senior party leaders in Patna on January 6. The meeting, which will commence at 11am on Saturday, had been convened to decided the future strategies of the party as supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav’s sentence announcement was expected on January 3. Lalu’s younger son and Leader of the Opposition in Bihar legislative assembly Tejashwi Prasad Yadav is expected to chair the meet.