In a setback for RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, the Supreme Court on Monday set aside a Ranchi High Court ruling and ordered that he and two others be tried in the remaining five fodder scam cases.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal chief has already been convicted in one of the fodder scam cases with respect to Chaibasa treasury and his appeal against this is pending in the Supreme Court.
The High Court in the case of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jagganath Mishra and Sajal Chakraborty had held that since they have already been convicted in one the fodder scam cases they need not be proceeded against in the remaining similar cases.
But in the case of one RK Rana in those very cases the same judge had declined to interfere with the trials in different cases.
Setting aside the High Court order, a bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy said, "Judicial discipline requires that such a blatant contradiction in such an important matter should have been avoided."
The bench in its judgment said that it was constrained to observe that the same Judge had taken a different view in R.K. Rana's case on the "basis of same facts, and same question of law in the same cases".
The court held that the order passed in the case of Rana was on "sound basis".
Directing expediting of trial "without any further hindrance from any quarter", the court ordered that the trials be "completed in nine months".
Justice Mishra, speaking for the bench said, "The (High) court ought to have been careful while dealing with such matters. Consistency is the hallmark of the court due to which people have faith in the system and it is not open to the court to take a different view in the same matter with reference to different accused persons in the same facts and same case."
The court said that "Such inconsistent decision-making ought to have been avoided at all costs so as to ensure credibility of the system."
Describing the High Court verdict as "palpably illegal, faulty and contrary to the basic principles of law" the top court said the judge has ignored large number of binding decisions of this Court while giving "impermissible benefit to the accused persons and delayed the case for several years".
"Interference had been made at the advanced stage of the case which was wholly unwarranted and uncalled for," the court said in its verdict by which it also pulled up the CBI for delay in approaching the top court against the order of the High Court.
Taking note of the delays by the CBI in filing appeals, the court in its order expressed "surprise" at the delay in filing appeal in such important matters and asked "how such delay could take place".
Saying that CBI ought to have been "careful" and was expected to be "more vigilant", the judgment said, "It has failed to live up to its reputation. In the instant case, lethargy on its part is intolerable."
It directed the CBI Director to look into the matter and "saddle the responsibility on a concerned person."
Asking the CBI Director to "devise methodology which should not be cumbersome" to deal with important cases, the court said, "…in future, Director, CBI cannot escape the responsibility for delay in such cases to be termed as deliberate one, which is intolerable."
The High Court had discharged Lalu Prasad Yadav, Jagannath Mishra and Sajal Chakraborty by the order set-aside today.
The conspiracy in the fodder scam had started in 1988 and continued till 1996.
Total 64 cases had been registered relating to fodder scam. A total of 52 cases involved withdrawal of huge sums of money from Government treasuries falling within Jharkhand state.