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Lalu, Rabri get clean chit in assets case

Tuesday 19 December 2006, by YADAV*J.P.

Patna, December 18: It was a one-line judgment: “Nirdosh paakar, riha kiya jaata hai” (not guilty, so acquitted). As CBI judge Munni Lal Paswan uttered these words, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav`s face lit up. Wife Rabri Devi too looked relieved and the couple rose, bowed to the chair and left the court.

Jubilant supporters fished out cellphones almost immediately to spread the word that Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi had been acquitted of charges in a disproportionate assets case filed against them by the CBI seven years ago. The case in which Lalu was accused of amassing property worth Rs 46 lakh above his known source of income between 1990 and 1997 as Bihar Chief Minister was an offshoot of the infamous fodder scam. Rabri Devi was accused of abetting her husband.

From the court, the couple headed straight to Patna’s Hanuman temple and then reached their 10, Circular Road home to declare: “God is great, court is great. Faces of my political rivals have been blackened by this judgment.” When a reporter asked Lalu if he now wanted to become Prime Minister, he promptly replied: “Why not? Don’t you want to become an editor?

As crackers burst and sweets did the rounds, the celebrations could be heard inside Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s home across the road. When reporters sought his reaction, Nitish Kumar, who was holding the weekly janata durbar, said: “What’s there for me to comment? I am not a party in this case. It is between a Central minister and a Central agency (CBI). I am busy with my work.”

CBI counsel L R Ansari denied that the prosecution’s case was so weak that it led to the acquittals. “We did our best. With 132 witnesses, we had a solid case. What went wrong can be judged only after we see the detailed judgment,” he said. What Ansari left unsaid was that 17 witnesses had turned hostile.

For Lalu and Rabri, the verdict came as a major relief. There are six more fodder scam cases in which Lalu figures as an accused.

Congress spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi said the verdict ensured justice for Lalu and his party was happy about it. “Lalu, his children and followers were subjected to a lot of torture by his political rivals. The media trial also was very unfair. But now, we are all relieved,” Lalu’s close confidant and Union minister Prem Chand Gupta said.

See online : The Indian Express

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