Patna, March 1: A special Bihar court Thursday framed charges against former chief ministers Lalu Prasad and Jagannath Mishra along with 32 others in a case related to fraudulent withdrawal of funds from the state treasury to purchase fodder for public distribution, court officials said.
The court has framed charges against them about 16 years after the case was lodged.
After all the accused appeared before a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in the multi-crore-rupee fodder scam case, charges were framed against them. The court also said trial against the accused, including Lalu Prasad and Mishra, would begin soon.
Public Prosecutor Jai Prakash said that the court would start the trial within a week.
Both Lalu Prasad and Mishra denied allegations against them and claimed they were framed.
“I have nothing to do with the fodder scam, the CBI conspired to frame me in this case. The CBI was biased against me and false cases are being thrust on me,” Lalu Prasad told reporters after the hearing.
Mishra said: “I was not involved in the scam but the CBI framed me.”
The move is seen in political circles as a major setback for Lalu Prasad, who heads the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the main opposition party in Bihar.
Last year, the court dismissed the discharge petitions of the accused. It had fixed March 1 as the date for framing charges against them and asked them to be present on the day.
The case was filed against Lalu Prasad, Mishra and others for allegedly conspiring to fraudulently withdraw Rs.47 lakh from the Bhagalpur treasury between 1995 and 1996.
The CBI filed a charge sheet against 44 people March 31, 2003, and the court took its cognizance April 30 that year. Of the 44 accused, six have died, two have turned approvers, while two others are still evading arrest. A total of 34 people are facing trial.
According to court officials, till date Lalu Prasad has been charged in six cases related to the fodder scam. Five of these were registered in Ranchi in Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar in 2000.
Funds meant for cattle feed were misused by politicians and government officials in the scam, which surfaced in the 1990s in undivided Bihar. Large amounts were withdrawn illegally on the pretext of purchasing fodder.