ED summons Lalu in land-for job scam case for first time

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 Lalu Prasad Yadav. File

Lalu Prasad Yadav. File
| Photo Credit: EMMANUAL YOGINI

A month after the arrest of Amit Katyal, a Delhi-based businessman and close aide of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued summons to both Mr. Yadav, and his father and Rahstriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad in the land-for-job scam case. Mr. Yadav has been asked to depose before the ED on December 22 and Mr. Prasad on December 27.

The ED, on April 11 this year had questioned Mr. Yadav for about eight hours in the case but this is the first time the probe agency has summoned his father, Mr. Prasad.

The ED had filed a case against Mr. Prasad and his other family members under the Prevention of Money Laundering Case (PMLA), which stemmed from a probe into the land-for-job case by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). According to the CBI, Mr. Prasad, when he was Railway Minister from 2004 to 2009, had given jobs to several people in Railways in lieu of lands, gifted or sold at cheap rates, either to his family members or close associates. It is alleged that Mr. Prasad’s family was given over one lakh sq. ft. of land in lieu of jobs in Railways. The then prevailing rate of the plots was around ₹4.39 crore but they were gifted to Mr. Prasad’s family members and their associates allegedly at a meagre value of ₹26 lakh.

Mr. Katyal, who was arrested by the ED in November this year, has allegedly been a close associate of Mr. Yadav. Mr. Katyal is a promoter of AK Info System which has been under scanner of probe agencies. The land-for-jobs case is being investigated by both ED and CBI.

The investigating agencies have alleged that Mr. Prasad’s family members were gifted plots in several places across India, including Mumbai, Jaipur, Jabalpur, Kolkata and Hajipur. Mr. Prasad allegedly violated norms on Railways recruitment, including giving advertisements or public notice on vacancies. Mr. Prasad and his family members have denied the allegations.

On October 4 this year, Mr. Prasad, his wife and former Chief Minister Rabri Devi, and their younger son Mr. Yadav were granted bail in another case related to the land-for-job scam after the agency filed a second chargesheet in the case. In May 2022, the CBI had booked as many as 17 people in the case, including Mr. Prasad and his family members. The other beneficiaries in the case were also named as accused.

RJD leaders in Patna refused to comment on the summons saying the matter is in “court” but said “Mr. Prasad and his family members are being harassed with such cases and summons over political reasons”. “Mr. Prasad will be a formidable challenger to the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha election and that is why he and his family members are regularly being harassed by investigating agencies under control of BJP government at the Centre”, said a senior party leader, requesting anonymity.

Mr. Prasad’s party RJD is a partner in the ruling coalition in Bihar along with Chief minister Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United), Congress, and Left parties. On Tuesday, Mr. Prasad along with CM Kumar reportedly left a meeting of the non-BJP Opposition bloc, Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) in New Delhi in a huff after West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee proposed the name of Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge as INDIA’s PM face. Earlier, before leaving for Delhi to participate in the meeting, Mr. Prasad at Patna airport had said that the INDIA bloc would “drive [PM] Modi out of power” in the upcoming 2024 general election.

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