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SC orders separate trial against him, Jagannath Mishra and others in fodder scam-related cases (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II, Polity and Governance)


The Supreme Court held that he and other accused persons, including former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra, will be tried separately for corruption and criminal conspiracy in cases involving the withdrawal of money and falsification of records in connection with the Rs. 900-crore fodder scam.

The Supreme Court Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy set aside the Jharkhand High Court decision to drop the charges against the 68-year-old Mr. Prasad, Mr. Mishra and former State Chief Secretary SajalChakraborty on the ground that they cannot be found guilty of the same offences twice under Section 300 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Rationale by Supreme Court

“One general conspiracy from 1988 to 1996 led to various offences and there has to be different trials for each offence based upon a conspiracy in which different persons participated at different times at different places for completion of the offence. In the instant case it cannot be said that defalcation is same transaction. The transactions were done in different treasuries during different years, for different amounts, on different allotment letters, supply orders and suppliers,” the court said.

Background
A total 64 cases were registered relating to the Bihar fodder scam. Of this, 52 cases involved withdrawal of huge sums of money from government treasuries falling within Jharkhand and in 36 out of 52 cases charge-sheets were filed by CBI. The probe was handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court. The scam involved corruption in public administration, misconduct by the bureaucracy, fabrication of official records and misappropriation of public funds.

What the Fodder scam was about:
“The scam was, basically, about a group of suppliers, government officials and senior bureaucrats siphoning off the government’s money in connivance with the then political leadership. The animal husbandry department of the government of Bihar used to supply fodder, medicines, artificial insemination instruments for livestock all over the state. They used to supply less than what was shown on paper or they would not supply anything at all but would show it on paper after fudging the figures of the government grant.

What it entailed:
“A large amount of money was withdrawn from the government’s treasury. In short, it was a loot of government’s money by the government’s officials backed by the political leadership. About Rs 950 crore was looted by government officials in ten years. It was a huge thing for all of us at that point of time.

How it was unearthed:
Thanks to the Comptroller and Auditor General.. But the Lalu government did not table the CAG reports for four years since it exposed his government’s malfeasance, and when he finally did so in December 1995 it blew up in his face. In March 1996 the CBI was brought into the case as per the Supreme Court’s order.

Number of cases:
Although Lalu has been convicted, the fodder scam cases are by no means over. In all there were 54 cases, and nine more are yet to be decided. In all more than there were more than 600 accused, of whom more than 500 have been convicted so far.

When Bihar was bifurcated to form Jharkhand, 52 of the cases went to Ranchi, and only two remained with Bihar.

The kingpin:
Contrary to popular impression, Lalu was not the kingpin of the scam. “The main kingpin of the scam was ShyamBihariSinha who died long back,” recalls RakeshAsthana, who was CBI’s superintendent of police investigating the scam. “He was a regional director, based in Ranchi, of the animal husbandry department. He was the man who chalked out the plan and carried it out. He paid senior and junior officers, regional leaders and top political leaders to carry on with the scam.”

Lalu’s role:
The charge-sheet in the fodder scam reveals that he used to protect the scamsters knowingly and in return he used to get illegal gratification from the main accused. “We were able to establish the bribe money. Also we could establish how he and his family members took favours like accepting air tickets. Money for travel for LaluYadav’s family members was paid by the scamsters. We could establish the connection to the scam and bribes given to LaluYadav,” says Asthana.

(Adapted from The Hindu and rediff.com)



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