Former Bihar chief minister Jagannath Mishra gets 4-year jail term

Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad was sentenced to five-year rigorous imprisonment in a corruption case on Thursday. The sentence immediately disqualifies him from Parliament and bars him from elections for 11 years, raising questions over leadership of his party ahead of the Lok Sabha elections due next year.

Special CBI Judge Pravas Kumar Singh sentenced the two-time former Chief Minister, another former Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra, Jagdish Sharma, JD(U) MP from Jahanabad, and other convicts, lodged in Birsa Munda Central Jail here, through videoconferencing.

Mr. Prasad, 66, who was convicted on September 30 in the fodder scam case, was also fined Rs. 25 lakh. Like other politicians, he was convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. But he claimed he was innocent.

Mr. Mishra, 76, was sentenced to four-year RI and asked to pay a fine of Rs. 2 lakh.

Mr. Sharma also faces disqualification in the light of a Supreme Court judgment that an MP or MLA would lose his seat immediately after he was convicted by a court for crimes with a punishment of two years or more of imprisonment. If they did not pay the fine, the convicts would serve six more months in jail.

Six other politicians and four IAS officers were also sentenced to prison terms for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs. 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury when Mr. Prasad was heading the RJD government in undivided Bihar in the early 1990s.

The judge had pronounced the sentence against eight of the 45 convicts on September 30 itself.

Earlier on Thursday, arguments on the quantum of sentence were completed in the special court. The CBI sought the maximum of up to seven years.

Counsel for Mr. Prasad, Mr. Mishra, Mr .Sharma and the former legislator, R.K. Rana, and others pleaded for a lesser sentence.

The former Development Commissioner, Phoolchand Singh; the former Science and Technology Secretary, Mahesh Prasad; the former AHD Secretary, Beck Juleus; the former Income Tax Commissioner, Adhip Chandra Choudhary; and the former Class I officers, Gouri Shankar Prasad, Brajnandan Sharma, K.M. Prasad (all of them with the Animal Husbandry Department) were among those found guilty.

The convicts were sentenced under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of a valuable security/will or authority to make or transfer any valuable security/receive any money), 468 (forgery for cheating), 477A (fraudulently destroying or defacing, or attempting to destroy or deface, or secreting a will) of the Indian Penal Code.