While Lalu Yadav, one of the prime accused in Fodder Scam also know as Chara Ghotala, pleaded with CBI Judge to consider his age and health as a factor for lesser punishment for the crime where he has already been held guilty, there is an eerie sense of irony at play here.
The bigger scam is how was he allowed to grow so old before being prosecuted in a case which was so audaciously and bluntly carried out that even people at that time did not bother to conceal any signs of plunder or cover their trails.
Major part of state machinery colluded including numerous Bihar state’s administrative and elected officials across multiple administrations of the Indian National Congress and the Janata Dal parties.
Lalu Prasad Yadav is the only person on whom the Lok Sabha debated for a complete session as the official agenda!
The corruption so blatantly involved fabrication of “vast herds of fictitious livestock” for which fodder, medicines and animal husbandry items was supposedly procured. This was not simple scandal but a generation of loot, it was being carried our for decades, it just accelerated to a large scandal while Lalu came to power with presumably big ambitions and organized political machinery (read goons) to take care of
Interestingly, it was Lalu Prasad Yadav himself who had ordered the probe, this was the level of confidence which can hardly be fathomed today
The scam had its origins in very small scale embezzlement and fraud by some government employees submitting false expense reports for non existent livestock, it then grew in scale and drew additional elements, such as politicians, bureaucrats and businesses, over time, until a full-fledged mafia had formed.
The bigger scam itself was the collaboration of so many people from different political parties, administrative blocks and businessmen including state machinery which itself had to investigate a case which it itself is accused of. This was the most potent money mining machinery for power hungry people before kidnapping industry flourished in Bihar which somehow was incidental to past events
Since it broke into public light, the fodder scam had become symbolic of bureaucratic corruption and the depravity of moral stature of politics in India generally, and in Bihar in particular. It has been called a symptom of a “deep and chronic malady afflicting the Bihar government and quite a few other state governments as well.”
The investigation and prosecution in the Fodder Scam was deeply entrenched by the political consideration and motive. For making a strong against case against the politicians and the bureaucrats, CBI launched the prosecution against majority of the officials including lower rung staffs, which did not have any nexus with the scam.
Many employees of the department were suspended and sentenced by the Courts, against whom there were evidence or direct involvement in the scam and those directly responsible were ruling indirectly by substituting their family members for their coveted positions.
The rationale given in the judgement for such penalty was their posting or deputation in the offices from where the scams were conducted, without any direct involvement in the scams. Due to this the family members of many employees were left without any option for earning.
The trial which was started in 1996 is still in process and the fate of many innocent people has been hanging without a certainty.
Former Bihar chief minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Prasad was sentenced to 5 years in jail in a fodder scam case by a special CBI court on 3 October 2013. The court of Pravas Kumar Singh announced the quantum of punishment via video conference due to security reasons.
Prasad has also been slapped with a fine of Rs 2.5 million. The 65-year-old leader has lost his Lok Sabha seat and is also barred from contesting election for six years following the sentencing due to an earlier Supreme Court order.
He was released on bail from Birsa Munda Central Jail, after he completed the bail formalities in a Special CBI court, two-and-a-half months after he was convicted in a fodder scam case
Timeline of fodder scam
- January 1996: The scam surfaces after Deputy Commissioner Amit Khare raids the offices of the Animal Husbandry Department and seizes documents that showed siphoning of funds by non-existent companies in the name of supplying fodder to non existent livestock.
- March 11, 1996: The Patna High Court directs the CBI to probe the scam. The Supreme Court upholds the order.
- March 27, 1996: The CBI registers an FIR in the Chaibasa Treasury case.
- June 23, 1997: The CBI files a charge sheet and makes Mr. Prasad and 55 others as accused in the case. Sixty-three cases were registered under IPC Sections 420 (forgery) and 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) and Section 13 (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
- July 30, 1997: Prasad surrenders before a CBI court and sent to judicial custody.
- April 5, 2000: Charges framed before the special CBI court. Rabri Devi’s name included as co-accused. She was granted bail, Mr. Prasad’s bail plea rejected and he was remanded in judicial custody.
- October 5, 2001: The Supreme Court transfers the scam cases to Jharkhand after the creation of the new State.
- February, 2002: Trial begins in the Ranchi special CBI court.
- December 2006: Prasad and Rabri devi acquitted of charges in the disproportionate assets case filed by the CBI
- June 2007: The special CBI court in Ranchi sentences 58 persons, including two nephews of Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, to jail terms ranging from two-and-a-half years to six years for fraudulently withdrawing Rs. 48 crore from the Chaibasa Treasury in the 1990s.
- March 2012: Six months after their appearance before the Special CBI court, charges are framed against Mr. Prasad and Mr. Mishra. The court charges the former with fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 47 lakh from the treasuries at Banka and Bhagalpur districts, where alleged forged and fake bills were drawn by the Animal Husbandry Department in 1995-96 when he was the Chief Minister.
- August 13, 2013: The Supreme Court rejects Mr. Prasad’s plea seeking the transfer of the trial court judge hearing the case.
- September 17, 2013: The Special CBI court reserves its judgment.
- September 30, 2013: Lalu and Mishra, along with 45 others are convicted by Special CBI Judge Pravas Kumar Singh. Lalu stands disqualified as member of the Lok Sabha following the verdict. The two cannot contest any election, including those of the Assembly/Council, for six years from the date of their release from jail.
- November 2014: The CBI challenges the order of the Jharkhand High Court quashing four pending fodder scam cases against Mr. Prasad on the grounds that a person convicted in one case could not be tried in similar cases based on same witnesses and evidences. The court upholds the CBI plea to continue proceedings in the trial court against Mr. Prasad under two sections.
- November 2016: The Supreme Court pulls up Mr. Mishra for allegedly dragging and delaying the appeal filed by the CBI challenging the quashing of four pending fodder scam cases against him.
- May 2017: The Supreme Court holds that Mr. Prasad and other accused persons, including Mr. Mishra, will be tried separately for corruption in a criminal case involving the withdrawal of Rs. 84.53 lakh and falsification of records from the Deoghar Treasury in 1991-94
- December 23, 2017: A special CBI court in Ranchi Convicts Lalu in the scam
- January 5, 2017: A special CBI court in Ranchi pronounces the quantum of punishment to 3.5 years of imprisonment and Lalu was taken to Birsa Munja jail in Ranchi
Conclusion: Fodder scam will go down in the history books as so obvious and so blatant crime for which our system and machinery took more than 2 decades to impose cost on those actually responsible while those who were not even remotely connected had to spend their life in poverty, oblivion and guilt