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Fodder scam: SC notices to Lalu, Rabri

October 01, 2004 16:15 IST

The Supreme Court on Friday issued notices to Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi on a petition seeking cancellation of their bail in fodder scam cases alleging that they have been interfering with the investigation and trial.

A bench comprising Justice S N Variava and Justice H K Sema also issued notices to the Union government and CBI on the petition filed by BJP Member of Parliament Sushil Kumar Modi and JD(U) Member of Parliament Rajiv Ranjan Singh 'Lalan' and asked all the respondents to file their responses within two weeks.

Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi alleged that after the new government, of which RJD is a coalition partner, has come to power at the Centre, concerted efforts were made to scuttle the probe and trial in the fodder scam cases by changing the investigating officers and public prosecutors as Prasad is a key accused in the scam.

He also alleged that the Income Tax Appellate Authority at Patna quashed the claims running into lakhs of rupees of the IT department against Lalu Prasad in a 'suspicious' and 'hurried' manner.

The court issued notice to the Central Board of Direct Taxes after hearing the matter.

The petitioners, who claimed that they had filed the first petition before the Patna high court seeking probe into the scam involving the Animal Husbandry Department of Bihar government, alleged that Prasad and Rabri Devi were misuing their positions to interfere with the process of law.

"By virtue of the new poltical equations between RJD and the UPA government at Centre, Prasad, one of the main accused in the fodder scam cases, has now substantial administrative control and political say in the functioning of the government at the Centre and publicly claims to be in a position to destabilise it at will," they said.

"Succumbing to his pressures, the CBI and CBDT have become party to a gigantic effort to shield Prasad and Rabri Devi in the fodder scam," they alleged.

Rohatagi said that Member (judicial) in the ITAT, who had been hearing the appeals of Prasad and Rabri Devi was 'curiously replaced only for two weeks' by a person who was on the verge of his retirement.

"He heard only two cases pertaining to Prasad and Rabri Devi even though the matter had been heard by another bench. Just before his retirement, he pronounced the order quashing the IT department's claim," he said and added that this order would help the accused in the disproportionate assets cases pending against them.

The petitioners requested the Court to monitor the trial of fodder scam cases pending in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand and direct the CBI not to change the public prosecutors and investigating officers who have been dealing with the case for years.

Rohatagi alleged that the public prosecutors have been replaced by new ones and one among them was a retired police officers who had started to practice law in the courts.

The petitioners had also sought a direction from the court to the Union government and CBDT to file an appeal against the ITAT order quashing the demands raised against Prasad and Rabri Devi.

Rohatagi said that despite a clear mandate from the Supreme Court that investigation should be monitored by a division bench of the Patna high court and should be expeditiously dealt with so that no evidence was lost, the accused persons were using the state machinery to thwart the judicial process and subvert the trial.

Referring to the delaying tactics in the trial of the fodder scam cases allegedly resorted to by the accused, the petitioners requested the Court to cancel the bail granted to them earlier.

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