Bihar government asserts right to challenge Lalu’s acquittal

August 28th, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) The Bihar government Thursday accused the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of succumbing to pressure from Railway Minister Lalu Prasad by not challenging his and his wife Rabri Devi’s acquittal in a corruption case.Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s government made the allegation in the Supreme Court in its reply to two lawsuits filed respectively by the CBI and Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi, questioning the Bihar government’s right to challenge their acquittal by a state trial court.

The case relates to the fodder scam that came to light during Lalu Prasad’s tenure as chief minister of Bihar and in which billions of rupees were illegally withdrawn from the state treasury.

“The CBI, which investigated the offence and was in the role of a prosecuting agency in the course of trial has chosen not to file any appeal against the judgement of acquittal,” said the Bihar government in its affidavit.

“It does create an impression that by virtue of the present position of Lalu Prasad in the union government, the CBI has chosen not to file the appeal on extraneous considerations,” it added.

Asserting its right to challenge Lalu Prasad-Rabri Devi’s acquittal, the state government said that merely because it got the corruption case against the two probed by the CBI, it does not forfeit its right to challenge their acquittals.

“Merely because the investigation was entrusted to the CBI, the state is not denuded of its authority under the Criminal Procedure Code, the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act to prosecute an offender, who is alleged to have conspired and connived in fraudulent withdrawal of thousands of crores of rupees belonging to the people of the state of Bihar,” said the affidavit.

“It is rather the obligation of the state of Bihar to ensure that offenders are brought to book,” it added.

The Bihar government asserted that it has the right to challenge the acquittal of the couple as it is the state’s exchequer which had been defrauded by the illegal and corrupt acts of omission and commission by the two.

The state government also pointed out that under section 378 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the state government is legally entitled to challenge the acquittal of Lalu Prasad and his wife.

In the wake of the fodder scam, involving illegal and unauthorised withdrawal of billions of rupees from the Bihar government treasury between 1992 and 1997 on the pretext of buying fodder for animals, the CBI had charged the couple with amassing property worth Rs.4.6 million above their legal income.

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

The Bihar government subsequently in early 2007 moved the Patna High Court challenging their acquittal and contended that owing to a Congress-led government at the centre, which enjoys the support of Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, the CBI was not keen to challenge the acquittal.

Lalu Prasad and his wife along with the CBI, in turn, moved the apex court last October questioning the state government’s authority to challenge their acquittal.

The CBI and the Yadav couple contend that the Bihar government has no statutory power to interfere with a case probed and prosecuted by the CBI.

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