Nearly 16 years after the corruption case was filed against him, a CBI court today framed charges of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy against former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad and 30 others in connection with the Rs950 crore fodder scam in the state.
Designated CBI Judge VK Srivastava framed the charges in the presence of the RJD supremo, former CM Jagannath Mishra and the others, including former RJD MP RK Rana and present ruling JD(U) MP Jagdish Sharma.
The charges are under Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by a public servant), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using forged document as genuine), 477 (A) (falsification of accounts), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the IPC and section 32 (read with 13 (1) c d of Prevention of Corruption Act.
The case, among other things, relates to fraudulent withdrawals of around Rs46 lakh by officials of state animal husbandry department from the Banka and Bhagalpur treasuries through fake bills between 1994-96 when Prasad was the chief minister.
The CBI had filed the charge sheet in the case on March 31, 2003 and the court had taken cognizance on April 30 the same year.
The CBI has registered 64 cases in the fodder scam, seven of which relate to criminal conspiracy.
Prasad alleged that he has been falsely implicated in the case and the "CBI had not procured the governor's sanction for prosecution in the case".
The court later cancelled the bail bonds furnished by former BJP MLA Dhruv Bhagat and Awadhesh Kishore Singh following their failure to be present during the framing of charges.
Srivastava issued a fresh warrant of arrest against them asking them to appear before the court on March 15.
Reacting to today's development, Prasad said,"the media makes this out ot be a big deal. You misreport facts. It is a legal process. Charges have been framed. We are following the procedure laid down by the court and will continue to do so."
Mishra said he had been falsely implicated in the case.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari refused to comment, saying the matter was sub judice.
Observing it was long overdue, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said in 1996, the Supreme Court had said that the trial must be expedited because it was a systematic loot of public money. "I would expect the trial to be concluded at the earliest not only in this case, but also in other cases.