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RJD chief Lalu Prasad was today sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case that immediately disqualifies him as MP and will keep him out of elections for 11 years, raising questions over the leadership of his party ahead of Lok Sabha polls next year. The sentencing by special CBI judge Pravas Kumar Singh of the two-time former chief minister, another former chief minister Jagannath Mishra and sitting JD(U) Jagdish Sharma and other convicts, who are currently lodged in the Birsa Munda Central Jail here, was made through video conferencing. 65-year-old Prasad, who was convicted on September 30 in a fodder scam case, was also fined Rs 25 lakhs. He, like other politicians, was convicted under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act. He claimed through video conferencing that he was innocent. Mishra (76), who has faded from politics, was sentenced to four years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs two lakh.
Lok Sabha member from Jahanabad, Sharma, also faces disqualification in the wake of a Supreme Court judgement that an MP or MLA would lose the seat immediately if convicted by a court for crimes with punishment of two years or more and under some other laws even without jail sentence. In case of failure to pay the fine, the convicts would undergo another six months simple imprisonment. Six other politicians and four IAS officers, among the convicted, were also sentenced to prison terms for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury when Prasad was heading the RJD government in undivided Bihar in the early 1990s.
Of the 45 convicts, the judge had delivered the sentence against eight of them on September 30 itself. Earlier today, arguments on the quantum of sentence Prasad and 36 other convicts were completed in the special court here with CBI seeking maximum prison term of up to seven years for them. The counsel of Prasad, Mishra, sitting JD(U) MP Jagdish Sharma and former legislator R K Rana and others had pleaded for lesser sentence Former Development Commissioner Phoolchand Singh, former Science and Technology Secretary Mahesh Prasad, former AHD Secretary Beck Juleus, former Income Tax Commissioner Adhip Chandra Choudhary, former Class I officers Gouri Shankar Prasad, Brajnandan Sharma, K M Prasad (all three were with the Animal Husbandry Department) and other officials, suppliers were among those found guilty. RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha has said that the verdict would be challenged in a higher court while Lalu's son Tejaswi said he could comment only after reading the judgement. Among other convicts sentenced were former Development Commissioner Phoolchand Singh, former Science & Technology secretary Mahesh Prasad, former AHD secretary Beck Juleus, former Income Tax Commissioner Adhip Chandra Choudhary, former Class I officers Gouri Shankar Prasad, Brajnandan Sharma, Dr K M Prasad (all three were with the Animal Husbandry Department) and other officials and suppliers. The convicts were sentenced under IPC sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of a valuable security/will or authority to make or transfer any valuable security/receive any money), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), 477A (fraudulently destroying or defacing, or attempting to destroy or deface, or secreting a will).

In the wake of framing charges in the fodder scam case, Prasad had to resign as chief minister of Bihar. After installing his wife Rabri Devi as the chief minister, Yadav had surrendered before a court in Patna on July 31, 1997. Later, he came to Ranchi following a court order that Ranchi had jurisdiction in the case. The Becon Guest House was converted to a camp jail in Ranchi before he was shifted to the old Birsa Munda Jail at Circular road here. After Jharkhand's bifurcation on November 15, 2000, the litigations were brought before the Supreme Court whether the Patna High Court had the jurisdiction on the cases in this part of the undivided Bihar and trial was stayed till December 2000 to December 2001. The SC had said in November, 2001 that trial would be conducted by special courts in Ranchi. Trial in Ranchi began in March, 2002 by seven special courts. The case was posted for defence of Prasad from May 15 and Prasad's counsel examined 29 witnesses in his defence. But when the defence continued to skip dates, the court fixed July 15 to deliver the verdict and asked the accused to complete arguments by July 1. Subsequently, Prasad moved the Supreme Court pleading for shifting of the case from the court of Pravas Kumar Singh on the ground of political conspiracy, which the apex court turned down, paving the way for the first judgement against Prasad. 


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