The Supreme Court agreed to change the trial judge hearing case against Rashtriya Janata Party Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav in the fodder scam on Tuesday. A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi said that it would pass order either directing the high court to appoint a new judge or would itself do so if there is consensus among the parties on name of the judge who is to hear the case.
The court asked the counsel of Lalu, the CBI and Janata Dal-United leader Rajiv Ranjan, on whose plea the high court is monitoring the scam, to evolve a consensus on the name of the judge and posted the case for hearing on August 6.
Interestingly the CBI, which was asked by the apex court on July 9 to take a stand on the allegations of Lalu that special CBI judge P K Singh is biased against him, did not respond and sought more time to file its response.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, appearing for Ranjan, opposed Lalu's plea and contended that the judge has been hearing the case since 2011 and the RJD chief did not raise objection in 275 days of hearing that took place since then.
The bench, however, was of the view that it would be better to change the judge in view of allegation levelled against him. The bench was hearing a petition filed by Lalu alleging that the judge is biased against him as he is a relative of P K Shahi, the Education Minister in the government of Nitish Kumar "who is his (Yadav's) biggest political enemy".
The apex court had on July 9 restrained the special CBI court in Jharkhand from pronouncing its verdict on July 15 in a fodder case involving the RJD chief.
Yadav approached the apex court after the Jharkhand high court on July 1 dismissed his plea to transfer the case to another special CBI court from that of Special CBI Judge P K Singh.The case pertains to alleged fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa Treasury in the 1990s. The first information report was lodged by the Bihar government in February 1996, but the case was later on transferred to the CBI a month later.
The CBI investigated the scam for a year and the charge sheet was filed in 1997. The charges were framed in 2000 following which the special CBI court commenced trial against Lalu and 44 other accused.