The CBI at work

Published : Mar 18, 2000 00:00 IST


DESPITE his victory in the battle for power in Bihar, Laloo Prasad Yadav cannot rest on his laurels. In what is viewed as a development with serious political implications, the Central Bureau of investigation (CBI) has sought Governor Vinod Pande's sanct ion to prosecute him in a case relating to the amassing of assets disproportionate to his known income. The CBI approached the Governor on March 8 when the government led by Samata Party leader Nitish Kumar was facing a confidence motion in the Assembly. Nitish Kumar resigned without seeking a vote, but the CBI action provided him with an opportunity to try and nail the RJD chief.

The CBI lodged the case (5A/98) against Laloo Prasad on August 2, 1998, in which he is accused of having accumulated property worth Rs.42.52 lakhs disproportionate to his known sources of income. Subsequently, the official residence of his wife Rabri Dev i, the Chief Minister, was searched and both Rabri Devi and Laloo Prasad were interrogated twice. The CBI later implicated Rabri Devi too in the case, saying that "she had aided and abetted" her husband's "illegal earnings". Rabri Devi failed to prove th at she owns the dairy farm her husband has shown in income tax returns as the source of his income. The CBI, the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate have so far unearthed and identified, on documentary evidence, property worth Rs.42.52 lakhs, said to belong to Laloo Prasad alone. He has not been able to give a satisfactory explanation to the investigating agencies as to how he amassed the wealth, which includes movable and immovable property.

The CBI action caught the RJD chief unawares, as he was concentrating on making determined efforts to defeat the Nitish Kumar Government on the floor of the House.

If the Governor - with whom the RJD chief is said to have "bitter" relations - sanctions the prosecution of Laloo Prasad and his wife, the CBI will submit a charge-sheet against the two. This would pave the way for the court to take cognizance of the cha rges. The couple would then have to surrender before the CBI Special Court.

Laloo Prasad resigned as Chief Minister in July 1997 before surrendering to the CBI in the fodder scam case, RC (20A/96). If Rabri Devi is to surrender before the CBI Special Court in a criminal case, she too may have to relinquish her chief ministerial post.

The CBI has so far charge-sheeted Laloo Prasad in two fodder scam-related cases - RC 20A/96 and RC 64A/96. He was arrested on a court order and is now out on bail. The CBI has sought gubernatorial sanction to charge-sheet Laloo Prasad in yet another fodd er scam-related case, RC 38A/96, along with former Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra and several others, including alleged major player Dr. S.B. Rana. It is yet to get the sanction in the case. Most of the cases, relating to conspiracy, forgery, cheating a nd other charges, have withstood judicial scrutiny whenever challenged in the lower courts, the Patna High Court and the Supreme Court.

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