A Special CBI court sentenced five-year jail term to former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav in connection with the multi-crore fodder scam. Now, the question arises that why the court took 17 long years to deliver verdict on Lalu? It should also be considered that how much Lalu’s political career got affected due to this delay? These questions assume significance because during the last 17 years, the RJD chief not only ruled Bihar either directly or indirectly but also served as railway minister during UPA-I. The sword of CBI continued to dangle over his head since the fodder scam had unearthed in 1995. Since then, both Indra Kumar Gujral-led United Front government and Manmohan Singh led UPA government have been blamed for misusing the CBI to shield Lalu. Strangely, the court took 17 long years to deliver verdict on the fodder scam accused despite having enough evidence against them.

Indian judiciary has already been under scanner for delay in delivering justice. The situation gets worse in case of politicians.  The reason behind this delay is that the probe agencies are not functioning properly in such cases. Lalu’s case gives an opportunity to ponder over that why such a leader, against whom serious corruption charges are leveled, should be given a political space to remain active. Is it not strange that Lalu successfully ruled the state due to the laxity of CBI and judiciary? It’s a well known fact that he pushed Bihar to the brink of economic disaster instead of brining prosperity in the state. He has been succeeding in wooing his voters and supporters by his spectacular image and style. The people of Bihar would so indulge in Lalu’s slogan and his style of functioning that they didn’t feel it necessary that how a person, who is facing corruption charges, will take the state on path of development?

Had the special CBI court delivered verdict on time, the scenario of Bihar would have been different. Moreover, the decision might have spread a stern message against political corruption. It’s natural for Lalu to become sad after the verdict as he might have thought that the court would acquit him. The court decision disappointed Lalu’s supporters. His close aides found themselves in an awkward position after the verdict. A large section of people in Bihar have been considering Lalu as their hero. As a politician, Lalu instilled confidence among his supporters who felt cheated. After taking lesson from Lalu’s conviction, will it not be appropriate to make it mandatory for the political leaders to tender resignation as soon as charges are framed against them and speedy trial should be conducted for early disposal of cases. Such system would be beneficial for leaders as well as their supporters. It’s ridiculous that the court itself have to think over the speedy justice for the leaders.

Despite being framed in the fodder scam, Lalu continued to dominate regional as well as national politics. Prior to court verdict, not only has he been able to increase his political stature, but also emerged as a kingmaker in 1996-97. It’s just a common perception that the Centre was pushing for an Ordinance on convicted lawmakers in order to shield Lalu. Several politicians, who have been named in numerous cases of corruption, keep on defending themselves until they are proved guilty by the court. On this basis, they remain politically active and use their clout to influence the course of judicial proceedings. The political fraternity should introspect why the morality has been on the wane. Earlier, the politicians would resign from their posts as soon as their names surfaced in scams.

The importance of regional parties has witnessed a manifold increase in the present era of coalition politics. It has become pretty difficult to presume which party will become important to achieve the magic number. This is the reason behind why every party and its leaders keep the options of political alliance open. This in turn, acts as a major hindrance for the CBI to carry out its probe against the leaders in corruption cases. The allegation of misuse of CBI by the Centre can’t be said to be baseless. When the Supreme Court described the CBI ‘a caged parrot,’ it implied that the premier investigating agency is working on the direction of Centre. The conviction of Lalu in fodder scam case reflects a change in the system. It seems that the agitations against corruption have compelled the political leaders, particularly youth brigade to ponder over bringing change in the system.

The Central Government brought an Ordinance shielding convicted leaders and later withdrew it after strong opposition of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The entire episode not only came off as a major embarrassment to the Manmohan Singh-led government, but also served a massive blow to its credibility. Had Rahul Gandhi not adopted a tougher stance against the Ordinance, it was almost certain that the Congress as well as UPA government would not have retracted its decision. For a long time, Rahul Gandhi has been advocating for entry of persons with clean image in politics and he has taken an initiative in the Congress in this regard too, but the desired result is yet to come. Lalu’s case has however sparked off a hope that if investigating agencies execute their responsibilities properly, tainted politicians can be taught a good lesson. However, it’s satisfactory to some extent that a heavyweight politician like the RJD chief has been punished in corruption case as Lalu and Rashid Masood certainly will move the High Court followed by the Supreme Court to get relief. It’s crystal clear that the judiciary has to pass through litmus test in the days to come. Similarly, investigating agencies, especially CBI will have to walk through the line of fire in its probe against other politicians in corruption cases.