The news of RJD chief and former CM of Bihar Lalu Prasad Yadav being sentenced for 5 years imprisonment along with a fine of 25 lakh by the CBI court in Ranchi, in the 17 year old fodder scam case, together with the Supreme Court’s decision that chargesheeted Members of Parliament and MLAs, on conviction for offences, will be immediately disqualified from holding membership of the House, finally sends a bold statement across the nation that no matter how long it takes but justice will eventually catch up with you.
On July 10, 2013, a Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and S.J. Mukhopadhaya struck down as unconstitutional Section 8 (4) of the Representation of the People Act that allowed convicted lawmakers a three-month period for filing appeal to the higher court and to get a stay of the conviction and sentence. This means that if the judgement given by the CBI court is held by the High Court of Jharkhand, Lalu Prasad could be facing up to 11 years out of the political arena, as according to provisions of the Representation of the People Act, a convicted person cannot contest elections for six years beginning from the date of completion of sentence. This is a prospect which spells doom for the RJD in Bihar as well as nationally.
The sentencing in fodder scam case has convicted 44 individuals including former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra and Janata Dal-United MP Jagdish Sharma, who were sentenced to four years imprisonment in the case. The scam, which had 950 crore fraudulently withdrawn from the government treasuries in undivided Bihar, involved fabrication of herds of livestock for which fodder, medicines and other animal equipment were supposedly procured. The scam came into light with the help of Amit Khare, the then deputy commissioner, in the Chaibasa treasury case and on March 27, 1996 the CBI lodged an FIR with the total number of accused being 56.
The verdict given, along with the scrapping of the government’s ordinance designed to protect convicted lawmakers, has come as a big blow to the RJD. It has come as the second shocking news in the week with senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Rasheed Masood being sentenced to four years in jail in a corruption case on Tuesday. Along with disqualification, he is effectively out of the electoral arena for 10 years.
Whatever might be the fate of Lalu in his appeal to the High Court on Oct 17, this news is certainly reassuring for the common masses, in the sense that we can finally hold the lawmakers in our country accountable for the wrongs they have done in a way that counts-by prohibiting them to get into politics again for a substantial number for years. This judgement, along with the SC verdict giving voters the right to reject all candidates by casting a negative vote in the polls, marks the hopeful beginning of much needed radical change in the system of our country. The only question to be pondered upon is that why these much needed reforms are coming out from our judiciary’s decisions and not of our government’s? Food for thought!
About the Author
Sonakshi is a first year law student at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She completed her schooling from CJM Convent St. Anthony’s Junior College, Agra, where she was the Head Girl of the student council. Her interests include reading, writing and debating and she enjoys good music, appreciates humour, thrives on sarcasm and generally annoys the hell out of her friends (that last bit is unintentional, well most times anyway). Currently, she is experiencing and surviving through the first year of law school and is extremely excited about the opportunity to share her views on the platform provided by the Alexis Foundation.