New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday dismissed Lalu Prasad Yadav’s plea seeking bail in multi-crore fodder scam cases, dashing hopes of the RJD supremo for electioneering during the Lok Sabha polls.
The top court said Yadav was a convicted man and the period spent by him in the jail is nothing in comparison to the 14-year sentence awarded to him.
A bench of Chief Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna while dismissing Yadav’s appeal said, “We don’t think we can release you on bail”.
Why Sibal’s arguments for bail did not impress
At the outset, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Yadav, said he has been convicted in four cases and has served jail terms of 24 months, 22 months, 20 months and 14 months respectively.
“In one of the cases, several persons who were holding influential positions were acquitted but I was convicted and sentenced for 14 years,” he said.
To this, the bench said in total Yadav has served 24 months in four cases and he cannot split the sentence awarded to him.
Sibal said there was no recovery of any kind from him in the case, no demands were made and the only major offence under which he was convicted was a conspiracy.
The bench said the high court will look into the merits of the case and at present, it is only hearing the bail appeal.
Sibal said: “If I am released on bail, I would not run away. My appeal is not being heard in the high court. Currently, the High court is hearing appeals of 2004 onwards.”
The apex court bench said that now there are courts meant for expeditious trial of criminal cases against politicians and it can request the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court to transfer the cases for trial to the special court.
“Let the high court decide the merit of the case in appeals against your conviction and sentence,” it said.
Sibal contended, “What is the danger if I am released on bail? I have served 24 months in jail”.
The bench then said: “Going by your statement, the 24 months in jail is nothing in comparison to 14 years jail term,” and added, “there is no danger except that you are convicted”.
Terming the mood of the court to be unfortunate, Sibal again asked the reason as to why he was not being granted the relief.
The bench replied, “Why? Because you are a convicted man. Sorry, we don’t think we will release you on bail. The Special Leave Petition (appeal) stands dismissed”.
Lalu not so miserable after all
The CBI had yesterday vehemently opposed in the apex court the bail plea of Yadav, saying the ailing leader suddenly claimed to be “fully fit” to undertake political activities in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Yadav, who has been in the hospital instead of jail for over eight months, had sought bail on medical grounds and for campaigning for his party simultaneously, the CBI had said while arguing that granting of bail to him would set “very wrong precedent” in cases involving “serious corruption in high offices”.
Accusing Yadav of undertaking political activities from a hospital in Ranchi, the probe agency had said: “Simultaneous raising of pleas for bail on medical grounds and bail to guide the party and to carry out all essential responsibilities as a party president in ensuing Lok Sabha election are mutually contradictory and manifests that in the garb of bail on medical ground the petitioner, in essence, wants to pursue his political activities which is impermissible in law.”
The agency, in its response filed to Yadav’s bail plea, had referred to the high-profile political leaders who have visited him in the hospital in last few months including Ahmed Patel, D Raja, Derek O’ Brien, Sharad Yadav and Hemant Soren.
The convicted person occupied the constitutional office of the chief minister of one of the largest States in the country and has been held guilty of “misappropriation of Rs 75.48 crores in four fodder scam cases” and is still undergoing trial in two cases for misappropriation of Rs 139.45 crore, it had said, adding Yadav may influence the trial in the two pending cases.
The RJD chief, lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi, had challenged the 10 January verdict of the Jharkhand High Court dismissing his bail plea.
Fodder scam cases so far
The four cases in which Yadav 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 Yadav as the chief minister when the scam had allegedly taken place.
In the high court, the RJD supremo cited old age and poor health for grant of bail. Yadav (71) 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 two another fodder scam case pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of funds to the tune of over Rs 130 crore from the Doranda treasury and has been undergoing treatment at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) at Ranchi for the last few months.