Patna: The special CBI court in Ranchi will pronounce the quantum of sentence for Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad and 15 other convicts in a fodder scam case on Thursday.
Special judge Shivpal Singh was scheduled to pronounce the quantum of sentence on Wednesday, but deferred after condoling the death of two lawyers, who passed away recently.
Court issues notice to 3 RJD leaders, Manish Tiwari
Meanwhile, the CBI court issued notices to senior RJD leader and party vice-president Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly Tejaswi Yadav, senior party leader Shivanand Tiwari and Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari for “contempt of court”. They had made comments against the verdict of the court on December 23.
“All four have been issued notices as the court has found their comments on the verdict as contempt”, Prabhat Kumar, lawyer for Lalu Prasad told journalists in Ranchi.
“I do not know about the court’s summon…when I’ll receive it, I will reply to it”, said Raghuvansh Prasad Singh who was present at the court premises.
Singh had said: “Jagannath Mishra ko bail aur Lalu Prasad to jail…yeh kaisa hai khel? [bail to Jagannath Mishra and jail to Lalu Prasad…what is this game?)].
A large number of RJD leaders and workers gathered in Ranchi on Wednesday to express solidarity with Lalu Prasad. However, no family member of his was present.
The case pertained to fraudulent withdrawal of ₹84.5 lakh from the Deoghar district (now in Jharkhand) treasury between 1994 and 1996 when Lalu Prasad was the Bihar Chief Minister.
The special CBI court of Justice Shivpal Singh completed the hearing in the case RC 64(A) / 1996 on December 13.
Six others, including former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra, were, acquitted in the case.
Cadres hope for lenient sentence
“We hope and pray for a minimum sentence to our leader to move immediately to the lower court for bail, otherwise we have to move to the Ranchi High Court”, said Bhola Yadav, RJD MLA and long-time close aide of Prasad.
“We have full faith in the judiciary and the almighty…let’s see what happens today,” Rabri Devi, party leader and wife of Prasad told media persons, while Tejaswi Yadav said “whatever the court decides, we will abide by it, respect it…Laluji lives in every party workers and leaders’ heart”.
“Even God wills that Laluji should come out of jail soon,” said Prasad’s elder son Tej Pratap Yadav.
“We are keeping our fingers crossed…let us see what decision the court takes today. But for us, Lalu Prasad will always be our God on earth,” said a group of RJD workers gathered outside the jail gate on Wednesday morning.
Ever since Prasad was lodged in the divisional ward of Birsa Munda Central jail in Ranchi, his party leaders, workers and supporters have been thronging the prison complex.
However, the jail authorities have allowed only three persons, decided by Prasad himself, to meet him in a week. The State government had rejected the demand of RJD leaders to relax the jail manual for Prasad as he is a “mass leader”.
Sources in the jail said Prasad has been keeping to himself inside the ward, watching news on Doordarshan channel and reading some vernacular newspapers.
Political observers of the State said if Lalu Prasad got a jail sentence of over three years, “it would have a major impact on the party’s rank and file”.
“It will throw up a new challenge to Lalu Prasad’s family and his party as well…Lalu’s heir apparent Tejaswi Yadav and his elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav both have to work hard to steer the party ahead and face the challenges posed by ruling alliance of the JD(U) and the BJP,” said political analyst Ajay Kumar.
RJD calls for meeting
The RJD, meanwhile, has called a meeting of all party leaders, MLAs, MPs and district presidents on January 6 in Patna to chalk out its strategy. Party insiders said Tejaswi Yadav is likely to read a one-and-half page letter written by Prasad, before going to jail, to party leaders and workers on that day.
A State-wide agitation after January 15 too is on the anvil in an apparent bid to boost the morale of the party rank and file in the absence of Prasad.
After Prasad’s conviction, Rabri Devi, Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav have been convening meetings with party leaders and legislators at regular intervals. “Every party leader and worker will become Lalu Prasad in his absence,” said State party chief Ram Chandra Purve.