Notice to Bihar government on appeal against Lalu Prasad (Lead)

May 9th, 2008 - 10:48 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday issued notices to the Bihar government on two petitions challenging its power to appeal against the acquittal of Railways Minister Lalu Prasad by a state trial court in a disproportionate assets case. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice M.K. Sharma issued notices on the lawsuits filed separately by the railways minister and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

“How has the state government come in the picture when the case was investigated and prosecuted by the CBI?,” the bench asked while issuing the notice to the Bihar government.

“CBI being prosecutor in the case can file an appeal. The state has no role to play in the case,” the bench observed.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for the Bihar Government, however, contended that the state was legally empowered to fle the appeal.

Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati submitted that CBI had investigated the case on the court’s direction and now the High Court had decided that the state government’s appeal was maintainable.

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Prasad, demanded that the matter be heard on priority basis since an important question of law was involved in it.

The minister and CBI had moved the apex court last October soon after the Bihar government moved the Patna High Court seeking its permission to challenge the acquittal of Lalu Prasad and his wife, former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi.

The couple was acquitted of all charges in the seven-year-old disproportionate assets case by Special CBI Judge Muni Lal Paswan Dec 18, 2006.

Lalu Prasad was accused by the CBI of amassing property worth Rs 4.6 million beyond his known sources of income between 1990 and 1997 during his tenure as Bihar Chief Minister while his wife was charged with abetting him in the alleged crime. The case was an offshoot of Bihar’s infamous fodder scam.

The Bihar government had sought the Patna High Court’s permission contending that owing to a Congress-led government at the Centre, which enjoyed the support of the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal, the CBI was not keen to challenge the acquittal.

Accordingly, the Bihar government wanted the Patna High Court’s permission to challenge Lalu Prasad’s acquittal. The high court recently permitted the state government to file the appeal.

The apex court had November 12 deferred the hearing on the petitions by the minister and the CBI saying the Bihar government has only moved the high court seeking permission to file an appeal against the trial court’s judgement.

The apex court had kept the petitions pending for hearing later if the state government were to get the requisite permission.

In its petition to the apex court, the CBI has contended that only the central government was empowered to challenge Lalu Prasad’s acquittal, owing to the fact that the case was probed by the central government agency.

“The Centre, after considering the conclusions and findings of the trial court, took a conscious and considered decision that no ground was made for filing of an appeal against the judgement of the trial court,” CBI said.

The railways minister and his wife had moved the Supreme Court last week, questioning the Nitish Kumar government’s legal power, motive and rationale to challenge their acquittal by the trial court.

In their petitions, the Prasad couple had accused chief minister Nitish Kumar of challenging their acquittal owing to political rivalry and vendetta.

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