Fodder scam: SC dismisses Lalu Prasad’s plea

    By IANS,

    New Delhi: In a major setback to RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, the Supreme Court Tuesday dismissed his plea seeking transfer of his trial in the Bihar fodder scam case to another competent court.

    The scam revolved around alleged multi-million-rupee financial lapses in Bihar animal husbandry department, popularly known as the fodder scam.

    The apex court bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi said: “In our view, in a matter of this nature, it is not at all desirable to shift the case to some other court at the last hour.”

    The apex court directed the trial court in Jharkhand to complete the proceedings as early as possible and gave another five days to the prosecution to complete their argument and 15 days to the accused to present their case.

    The judges said the trial court will pronounce the verdict without being influenced by whatever has been said by the Ranchi High Court and the Supreme Court.

    However, the apex court held that the trial court judge “committed an error” by “abruptly” informing the parties that “written arguments are to be submitted on or before July 1 and the judgment would be delivered on or before July 15”.

    Holding that Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader’s plea for the transfer of trial to another court could not be entertained, the apex court said that any inconvenience that might have been caused by the abrupt decision of the court could be set right by granting further time for arguments to Lalu Prasad and other accused.

    The apex court noted that the judge sought to be changed by Lalu Prasad at this stage of the trial had been hearing the matter since 2011.

    Noting that Lalu Prasad had raised objection related to possible bias at the fag end of the trial, Chief Justice Sathasivan said: “The presiding judge, in our view, will take note of the grievance expressed and eliminate the apprehension of the appellant. It goes without saying that every litigant is entitled to fair justice.”

    The apex court rejected the former Bihar chief minister’s apprehensions over bias.

    The judges said the matter was being heard by the trial judge since November 2011, and after examination of witnesses and after hearing the arguments of both the sides, “it is not clear how the appellant (Lalu Prasad) has such an apprehension at this stage”.

    “If the appellant (Lalu Prasad) really had any apprehension in his mind, this could have been raised at the earliest point of time and not after the conclusion of evidence and arguments, particularly, on the eve of pronouncement of judgment”, the court said.

    Having turned down Lalu Prasad’s plea, the court said: “We have already highlighted that the prosecution was initiated as early as in 1997 and after prolonged trial, the matter has reached final stage, namely, pronouncement of the decision.”

    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.