In a big blow to Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected his plea for transfer of the special CBI judge hearing the fodder scam case against him in Jharkhand and asked the trial court to pronounce the verdict as soon as possible.
A bench headed by Chief Justice P Sathasivam dismissed the allegations of RJD supremo that the trial judge, being a relative of a minister in the Nitish Kumar government, is biased against him and questioned Lalu Prasad's move to raise the issue at the fag end of the trial.
The apex court also set a time frame for concluding the proceedings granting five days time to CBI and 15 days to accused persons to wrap up their final arguments in the case.
The bench, also comprising justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, said that it was not inclined to entertain the allegations levelled against the judge and vacated its stay on the trial court proceedings.
The bench had earlier virtually agreed to transfer the judge and had asked the CBI and Lalu's counsel to name an alternate judge to hear the case.
The apex court had on July 23 said 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.
It had also asked the parties to evolve a consensus on the name of the judge by August 6.
However, on the next date of hearing, the bench refrained from passing any order in view of stiff opposition from JD-U leader Rajiv Ranjan who had submitted that it would be a "travesty of justice" if the judge is transferred at the fag end of the trial.
Ranjan, on whose plea the Jharkhand high court is monitoring the probe in the fodder scam, had submitted that it would give a wrong impression to the entire country if the judge is transferred and raised a question on Lalu's petition seeking transfer of the judge who has been hearing the case since 2011.
The case pertains to alleged fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa Treasury in the 1990s. The FIR was lodged by Bihar government in February 1996 but the case was transferred to the CBI a month later.
The CBI had 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.
Lalu had in his petition alleged that trial court judge P K Singh is biased against him as he is a relative of P K Shahi, Education Minister in the government of Nitish Kumar in Bihar, "who is his (Lalu's) biggest political enemy".
He had approached the apex court after the Jharkhand high court had on July 1 dismissed his plea to transfer the case to another special CBI court.