Lalu income tax evasion case: SC wants some other judge
New Delhi, Apr 24 (UNI) The Supreme Court today indicated that it was inclined to request the Patna High Court Chief Justice to decide within 15 days about the judge to hear the income tax evasion case pending against Railway Minister Lalu Prasad.
A bench comprising Mr Justice K G Balakrishanan, Mr Justice A R Lakshmanan and Mr Justice S H Kapadia while adjourning the hearing of the case till May 5 made its mind clear that it wants some other judge to hear the case instead of the present special judge Munna Lal Paswan keeping in view the allegations of the petitioner Rajiv Ranjan Singh Yadav alias Lallan, an MP, that the present judge is an accomodating judge.
Senior counsel for Lalu Prasad, Ram Jethmalani ,however pleaded that since prosecution had already completed its final arguments in the case, the apex court should lift stay against the defence and allow it to start its arguments for expeditious disposal of the case. Solicitor General of India GE Vahanvati also supported the Railway Minister.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi appearing for the petitioner, however alleged that the Centre was in collusion with the accused.
Rohtagi also pointed out that till 2004 the accused took 25 adjournments in the case and was interested in delaying the proceedings when Yogender Prasad was the special judge who was transferred on promotion on June 1, 2005 and Munna Lal Paswan was appointed special judge on July 2,2005.
Former Supreme Court judge S.N. Variava heading the bench had directed the Patna high court to send the entire record of replacing Mr Yogender Prasad to this court. Justice Kapadia at one stage pointed out that since 1999 not even single annual confidential report of Paswan was satisfactory.
Ram Jethmalani, counsel for Lalu, however, contended that such orders passed by this court shall destroy the institution and changing the judge at this point would send wrong signals to the public at large creating an impression that the entire high court was in the pocket of the accused. Jethmalani also alleged that this court has already ensured the conviction of the accused as now it will require a judge of exceptional courage to acquit the accused.
The apex court had directed that prosecution arguments would be concluded but the defence would not start its arguments and the further proceedings shall remain stayed. The petitioner has alleged that the state was not filling an appeal against the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal order acquitting Lalu Prasad despite controversial conduct of the tribunal judges.
Jethmalani wanted time to seek instructions from his client on the issue of transferring the case to some other judge. At one stage Jethmalani pleaded that the case may be transferred outside Bihar to any other state, State of Bihar is however now on the side of the petitioner after fall of RJD government in the state.
UNI AKS/SC RP VP1828