Let me get moving the nib of my pen by first and foremost pointing out that a Special CBI court in Ranchi on January 24 awarded five years of rigorous imprisonment in jail and a fine of Rs 10 lakh to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief and former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in a third fodder scam case RC 68(A)/96 for fake withdrawal of Rs 33.61 crore from Chaibasa treasury out of the five lodged against him 22 years ago. Earlier, a total of 50 accused persons including Prasad and former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra were also convicted in the case while six others were acquitted. They were all convicted in the scam case related to the Chaibasa treasury from which Rs 33.13 crore were fraudulently withdrawn against the annual allotment of Rs 7.10 lakh for the year 1992-93.
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me also inform them that the Special CBI Court of Judge SS Prasad convicted Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jagannath Mishra and 48 others in the RC 68 (A) / 96 fodder scam case which pertained to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 33.67 crore from Chaibasa (now in Jharkhand) district treasury during the period of 1992-93. Altogether 56 persons were facing trial in the case. The Rs 900 crore fodder scam probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), relates to fraudulent withdrawal of public funds from different government treasuries over fictitious expenditure on fodder and other expenses for cattle.
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that the CBI counsel BMP Singh told journalists in Ranchi that, “Under different Sections of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act, Lalu Prasad has been sentenced.” Prasad who has been cooling his heels here at the Birsa Munda Central Jail since December 23, 2017, after his conviction in another fodder scam case, appeared in person to hear the verdict. He was given a seat in the courtroom’s front row where he waited for at least two-and-a-half hours until the punishment was pronounced at
To be sure, while communicating the sentence, the Special Judge of CBI Court – SS Prasad announced that Lalu Prasad Yadav had to undergo rigorous imprisonment (RI) of five years for committing offences under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and another five years for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The Judge said that, “Both sentences shall run concurrently”.
Of course, Lalu has the option now of appealing in the High Court and then in the Supreme Court. Let us wait and see whether there he gets convicted or acquitted! We cannot prejudge what will happen in Lalu Prasad’s case finally!
Without getting personal, I very strongly feel that those who indulge in corruption and mint crores of rupees must be punished either with death sentence or at the least life imprisonment! Five years or three years or ten years makes a mockery of our legal system and those who are corrupt are easily able to waste many years fighting legal battles and then just come out of jail in few years time! This should never happen!
To say the least, punishment must be either death or life! Nothing else! Also, the property and bank balance of the corrupt should also be seized completely!
Needless to say, the sword of discretion with the Judges that arms them with the option to award minimum punishment which can be very light must be taken away! Corruption cannot be justified under any circumstances! They must be face to face either life or death!
Only and only then will the corrupt fear indulging in corruption! But we don’t see this happening as there have been no changes made in the Prevention of Corruption Act enacted way back in 1988, 30 years ago! Now we see how they come out within few years with a big smile on their face and no sign of remorse!
To put things in perspective, out of the total 76 accused in this third case of fodder scam, 14 had died during the trial, three became approvers, two pleaded guilty while one has been absconding. Of the remaining 56 facing trial, 50, including Lalu Prasad yadav and Jagannath Mishra were convicted and sentenced to jail terms and fines. Six of them were politicians, three former IAS officers, six Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) officials, one a treasury official and 40 were suppliers to the AHD.
As it turned out, earlier Lalu Prasad Yadav’s lawyer Chitranjan Sinha passionately pleaded for a lighter punishment citing his client’s multiple health issues as the main reason for it. But the CBI, on the contrary, demanded maximum punishment arguing that the accused deserved no leniency as the offences were grave. The CBI’s argument found favour with the court!
Be it noted, Lalu Prasad is currently lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail of Ranchi after being convicted for 3.5 years in the RC 64(A)/96 fodder scam case on December 23, 2017. The case pertained to the Deoghar treasury withdrawal in which the quantum of sentence was pronounced on January 6, 2018 by the CBI Special Judge Shiv Pal Singh. Lalu has appealed in the Ranchi High Court against his conviction in the case. He was first convicted in a fodder scam case, RC 20(A)/96 for fake withdrawal of Rs 37 crore from Chaibasa treasury on September 30, 2013 for five years and was barred from contesting elections for a period of six years. Later, he had got bail in the case. In two other fodder scam cases related to illegal withdrawal of money from Dumka and Doronda district (both in Jharkhand) treasuries, verdicts are likely to be pronounced in the coming months! The pending cases are RC 38(A)/96 for fake withdrawal of Rs 3.31 crore from Dumka treasury and verdict expected in February or March and the other is RC 47(A)/96 for fake withdrawal of Rs 139.39 crore from Doronda treasury in Ranchi. The verdict is expected by end of 2018.
Truth be told, Prasad as told earlier has already been convicted in two fodder scam cases in 2013 and 2017 and got five and 3.5 years of imprisonment respectively. His first conviction, on September 30, 2013, was a major blow to the veteran politician who faced disqualification from Lok Sabha and a ban on contesting elections. Lalu has spent about 398 total days in jail till now!
At the risk of repetition, I would say again that corruption must invite the strictest of punishment which should be either death or life along with attachment of all bank accounts and property! There has to be zero tolerance for corruption. Corruption cases must be decided right from the lower to the highest court! If this is implemented earnestly, I challenge that no one will dare indulge in corruption! Those who still dare will meet their just desserts soon! How many will dare then?
But Centre I have to say with regret is just not prepared to change the law of corruption enacted when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister way back in 1988 and 30 years later we still see no changes being inserted! This alone explains that why now in every state and every big deal we keep hearing of scams involving crores of rupees and still we hardly see quick punishment coming soon! The firm determination to fight corruption will only be displayed when laws on corruption are amended and those indulging in it are punished most strictly as enunciated above! Will it ever be done? It is Centre which holds all the cards!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.