CBI questions Lalu in land for jobs scam for 5 hours

CBI questioned former railway minister and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad for nearly five hours in two sessions in the land for jobs scam case.
CBI questions Lalu in land for jobs scam for 5 hours
The case pertains to people given employment in the railways in return for land parcels gifted or sold at cheap rates to the Yadav family and its associates.

New Delhi | The CBI on Tuesday questioned former railway minister and RJD supremo Lalu Prasad for nearly five hours in two sessions in the land for jobs scam case, officials said.

The case pertains to people allegedly given employment in the railways in return for land parcels gifted or sold at cheap rates to the Yadav family and its associates, they said.

A team of five CBI officials arrived in two cars around 10.40 am at the residence of Misa Bharti in Pandara Park near India Gate where Prasad is currently residing, and left around 12.55 pm for lunch. The questioning resumed around 2.15 pm which continued till 5.15 pm, they said.

During the exercise, which was being videographed, the former Bihar chief minister was confronted with some documents in a room where he is quarantined post his kidney transplant surgery, the officials said.

Prasad underwent a kidney transplant in Singapore last year and returned to India a month ago. In view of the high risk of infections, the mass leader has chosen to stay away from his home state and convalesce at the residence of Bharti, who is a Rajya Sabha member.

His Singapore-based daughter Rohini Acharya took to Twitter to express her anguish over Prasad's interrogation by the CBI.

"These people are harassing papa. If the harassment leads to any problem, we will rock the seat of power in Delhi. Patience is running out," she tweeted.

The CBI has filed a charge sheet in the case against Prasad, his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi and 14 others under charges of criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and all the accused were summoned on March 15, officials said.

They said the fresh round of questioning is taking place as part of "further investigation" where the agency is trying to ascertain the money trail and larger conspiracy.

The questioning of ailing Prasad, convicted in a fodder scam, comes a day after his wife was quizzed at her Patna residence by the agency for nearly five hours.

It is alleged that during Prasad's tenure as railway minister from 2004-09, irregular candidate appointments were made in the Central Railways, violating the norms and procedures of the Indian Railways for recruitment.

No advertisement or public notice was issued for appointment but some residents of Patna were appointed as substitutes in different zonal railways located at Mumbai, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Jaipur and Hazipur, it is alleged.

As a quid pro quo, the candidates, directly or through their immediate family members, allegedly sold land to the family members of Prasad at highly discounted rates, up to one-fourth to one-fifth of the prevailing market rates.

The questioning of Devi had evoked sharp criticism from opposition parties on Monday.

Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav has termed the CBI action a result of his family's "relentless opposition" to the BJP.

"It is an open secret that probe agencies are acting against political opponents of the BJP and helping those who agree to align with that party," the RJD leader told reporters outside the Bihar assembly on Monday.

Yadav said that railway minister Prasad had "no powers" to give employment in exchange for favours. He got support from Congress and the AAP, which targeted the central government, alleging that the saffron party wanted to "suppress" the voice of the opposition.

"Today Rabri Devi ji is being harassed. Lalu Prasad ji and his family have been harassed for years because they did not bow down," Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had tweeted.

AAP convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said targeting and harassing opposition leaders is wrong. The CBI had recently arrested the then Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in the excise policy scam case.

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