Jharkhand HC pulls up govt for shifting jailed Lalu Prasad to bungalow

The Jharkhand high court on Friday pulled up the state government for shifting RJD chief Lalu Prasad from the paying ward of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) to the hospital’s director’s bungalow and then back to the ward without having a standard operating procedure(SOP).

Prasad, serving imprisonment after conviction in different fodder scam cases, has been undergoing treatment for more than two years at RIMS. He was shifted to the director’s bungalow in August last year, purportedly due to the spread of covid-19. Prasad returned to the hospital ward after two months in October.

It was alleged that Prasad had violated the provisions of the jail manual to avail facilities not available to any prisoner.

Hearing the matter on Friday, the bench of justice Aparesh Kumar Singh observed, “The government functions as per law and not by individual wishes.”

The bench said that RIMS management failed to clarify what other options they had looked into before deciding to shift Prasad to the hospital’s director’s bungalow.

“Why have they selected this bungalow only. They should have considered other options also. Any such decision should have been taken in accordance with the law,” the bench said.

Earlier, the court asked under what provisions Prasad was provided these ‘extra’ facilities. It also asked the government to clarify under which provision Prasad, a prisoner, kept helpers when in jail. What are the rules and how are these helpers selected and appointed, the court asked.

Inspector general (IG), prison, filed a reply stating that the hospital management had shifted Prasad to the bungalow to safeguard him from Covid-19 infection. The jail manual doesn’t clarify as to what different facilities should be made available for a prisoner who is undergoing treatment in custody outside jail, the IG’s report said.

“It is also silent on whether such ailing prisoners should get helpers. There is no SOP (standard operating procedure) for this as well. The government is in the process of bringing changes in the jail manual and to prepare SOPs too,” the IG said in his report.

Considering this, the bench adjourned the matter asking the government to furnish a copy of the SOP by January 22, the next date of hearing.

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Prasad had suffered a major jolt in the fodder scam case on September 30, 2013, when a trial court in Ranchi held him guilty in the first of the six cases against him. The conviction got him five years in prison, disqualification from the Parliament and a ban on contesting elections. He was given bail by the Supreme Court in December that year.

His troubles renewed in 2017-18, when he was convicted and sentenced to different terms of imprisonment in three separate fodder scam cases in quick succession. He has secured bail in two of them and his bail application in the third and the last case is under the high court’s consideration.

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