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SC reprieve for Lalu
PIL to cancel bail rejected
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 21
In a major reprieve to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad and his wife and former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi, the Supreme Court in a two-one majority decision today rejected a PIL by two NDA leaders seeking the cancellation of bail for their alleged interference in the judicial process in the disproportionate assets (DA) and Income Tax cases against them.

Separate allegations were raised in the PIL by Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi of the BJP and JD(U) MP Rajiv Ranjan Singh against Mr Lalu Prasad that he had used his influence to get the CBI special judge in Patna and public prosecutor changed in the fodder case against him and the DA case that he was facing jointly with his wife.

While Mr Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Mr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan dismissed the PIL on the ground that no evidence had come to suggest their interference in the case, Mr Justice S.H. Kapadia in a strongly worded dissenting order said that there were good reasons to question the appointment of special judge Muni Lal Paswan.

Mr Paswan’s appointment in place of Mr Yogendra Prasad who had been hearing the trial for the past five years and the appointment of a new prosecutor Oma Shankar, a former Delhi police law officer, was cited as interference by Mr Lalu Prasad in the judicial process in the PIL.

On the issue of disposal of Income Tax cases against Mr Prasad and Ms Rabri Devi by a special Bench of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) at Patna after Mr Lalu Prasad became Railway Minister and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) not filing an appeal against its order, the majority of judges cited the decision of the Union Government “taking into consideration the views of the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Finance to the effect that no substantial question of law arises out of the ITAT judgement.”

But Justice Kapadia disagreed with them and held that there were strong reasons for filing the appeal particularly when ITAT had come to the conclusion that the tax cases against Mr Lalu Prasad and Ms Rabri Devi were “very difficult”.

Justice Kapadia said for hearing a case like the fodder scam in which several hundred crore rupees of the government were siphoned off, required proper examination of the track record of a judge who was appointed to hear it.

Justice Balakrishnan and Justice Lakshmanan cited the provision of Article 233 of the Constitution about the Governor’s power to appoint a judge in the subordinate judiciary in consultation with the High Court Administration and held that it was the prerogative of the government to appoint any lawyer as public prosecutor.

But Justice Kapadia in his dissenting verdict said, “The time has come when the High Courts should lay down clear procedure for appointment of special judges to deal with important cases.”




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