Wontroversies refuse to let go of Lalu Prasad. The Union Railway Minister now faces serious charges of nepotism in having distributed railway jobs to relatives and witnesses who deposed favourably for him in the fodder scam.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed a petition accusing Lalu of serious charges of nepotism by throwing railway jobs under him to relatives and witnesses who deposed in his favour in the fodder scam, to be pursued with the Prime Ministers' Office.
Owing to the extensive clout and power enjoyed by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader at the Centre, the petitioner, Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan, a JD(U) MP, explained that the matter was brought to the Prime Minister's attention in August last where a dossier of allegations together with relevant proof was submitted to him seeking an independent probe by agency like Central Bureau of Investigation. But the petitioner stated that, to his shock, the matter was referred for probe to a Joint Director (Vigilance) posted under the Railway Ministry, who could not be expected to investigate "fairly" against his own Minister.
Arguing for the petitioner, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan pointed out that the nature of allegations were such that an independent agency like the CBI was equipped to handle the evidence and investigate the case. Entrusting the investigation to a junior officer was sufficient to indicate the seriousness of probe the Government wished to undertake, he added.
But the Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan was non-committal. Offering a way out, it suggested, "You can pursue the matter with the PMO." The petitioner sought permission to withdraw the petition.
Speaking to The Pioneer, petitioner Rajiv Ranjan said he may move a complaint before the Special CBI judge. Alternatively, he may approach authorities under the Right to Information Act to seek material about appointments made in the Ministry during the tenure of Lalu as Railway Minister.
According to the petition, Lalu amassed disproportionate assets in form of properties transferred to his name and of his family received from aspirants for a railway job and in lieu of awarding railway contracts. The petitioner annexed copies of land deeds awarded in favour of Lalu's son following which the said person secured a railway job.
In two specific cases, the petitioner supplied proof of railway jobs given to witnesses who deposed in the multi-crore fodder scam, offered to them as a reward for speaking in his favour. This, according to the petitioner was a clear case of nepotism and misuse of office.
The petitioner questioned how Lalu's father-in-law and brother-in-law, who till 2004 obtained state land being landless farmers, suddenly rose to heights of prosperity to bequeath property in the name of Lalu's wife Rabri Devi and sons. Lands were even secured from Union Ministers Kanti Singh and Raghunath Jha, both belonging to RJD, the petition alleged along with copies of sale deed.
Pecuniary benefits were also secured to favour Prem Chand Gupta, Lalu's colleague and Union Minister of Company Affairs, known to be his close political confidante. In another case, the name of one Delight Marketing Co Pvt Ltd signing nine sale deeds on a single day in lieu of leases to operate two railway hotels in the heart of Ranchi (Jharkhand) and Puri (Orissa). Almost 70 per cent stakes in this company is held by Sarla Gupta, the wife of Prem Chand Gupta.
Even Lalu's daughter Ragini's meteoric rise as an LIC agent forms part of the bunch of cases pointing towards Lalu's complicity. Taking a commission cut of Rs 1.5 crore for a record Rs 15 crore insurance deal earned in a single day, the petitioner demanded an investigation into the possible hand of her mentor and father to facilitate this accomplishment by using resources within the Ministry.
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