IRCTC scam: Lalu Prasad, wife, son summoned as accused in IRCTC scam case

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New Delhi:

A Delhi court on Friday summoned RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Yadav and others as accused in an Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) scam case.

Special Judge Arvind Kumar directed them to appear before the court on August 31 in a case related to alleged irregularities in granting operational contract of two IRCTC hotels to a private firm.

“I take cognisance of the charge sheet. The accused be summoned for August 31,” the judge said.

The CBI, which had on April 16 filed the charge sheet in the case, had said that there were enough evidence against Lalu, Rabri, Tejashwi and others.

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The CBI had earlier informed the court that sanction has been procured from authorities concerned to prosecute Additional Member of Railway Board B K Agarwal, who was then the group general manager of the IRCTC.

Besides Lalu Prasad and his family members, former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta and his wife Sarla Gupta, Agarwal, then managing director of IRCTC P K Goyal and then IRCTC director Rakesh Saxena were also named in the charge sheet.

The other names in the charge sheet include then group general managers of IRCTC V K Asthana and R K Goyal, and Vijay Kochhar, Vinay Kochhar, both directors of Sujata Hotels and owners of Chanakya Hotel.

Delight Marketing Company, now known as Lara Projects, and Sujata Hotels Private Limited have also been named as accused companies in the charge sheet.

The CBI had registered a case in July last year and carried out searches at 12 locations in Patna, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar and Gurgaon in connection with the case.

The charges in the case include criminal conspiracy (120-B), cheating (420) under IPC and corruption, the central probe agency had said.

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According to the charge sheet, between 2004 and 2014, a conspiracy was hatched in pursuance of which BNR hotels of the Indian Railways, located at Puri and Ranchi, were first transferred to the IRCTC and later, for its operations, maintenance and upkeep, it was given on lease to Sujata Hotel Private Limited, which is based in Patna.

It is alleged that the tender process was rigged and manipulated, and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party (Sujata Hotels).

It also claimed that Vinay Kochhar on February 25, 2005, sold commercial property in the form of three acres of land in Patna through 10 sale deeds for Rs 1.47 crore to Delight Marketing, in which Sarla Gupta was a director as a front benami holder on behalf of Lalu Prasad.

Between 2010 and 2014, this land was further transferred, the CBI alleged.

In 2001, it was decided to handover the management of catering services of the Indian Railways, including of its hotels, to the IRCTC. Two such hotels—BNR Hotels in Ranchi and Puri—were also identified and an MoU was signed between the railways and the IRCTC on March 19, 2004.

According to an FIR filed by the CBI, Lalu Prasad, the then railway minister, entered into criminal conspiracy with the owner of Sujata hotels, Sarla Gupta, the wife of his close associate Prem Chand Gupta, an RJD MP in the Rajya Sabha, and IRCTC officials for “undue pecuniary advantage to himself and others”.

The probe agency also alleged that BNR hotels were transferred to Sujata Hotels through a rigged and manipulated tender process managed by P K Goel, the then managing director of IRCTC.

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The CBI enquiry shows that the railways sought bids for developing, operating and maintaining Rail Ratna Hotels on September 16, 2006.

The probe agency has alleged that Lalu Prasad, as railway minister, was aware about the whole process and was keeping a track of the tender proceedings.       

It surfaced that while over 15 bid documents were received for both the hotels, IRCTC has no records of bidders other than the Sujata Hotels.

It was also alleged that with an intention to render undue pecuniary gains to Sujata Hotels, the bid of another hotel was deliberately and unreasonably given low marks under technical evaluation.

“As a result, Sujata Hotels remained the only bidder in financial evaluation and was qualified,” the CBI has alleged, adding that after the tender was awarded to Sujata Hotels, the ownership of Delight marketing also changed hands from Sarla Gupta to Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav between 2010 and 2014.

By this time, Lalu Prasad had demitted the office of railway minister.

Lalu Prasad became chief minister in 1990 but had to resign in 1997 following corruption charges in the multi-crore rupees fodder scam.

From 1997 to 2005 his wife Rabri Devi ruled as the Chief Minister of the state and was replaced by Nitish Kumar as chief minister.

Lalu Prasad also served as Union railway minister from 2004 to 2009.

The RJD again came back to power after forging an alliance with its bitter rival JD(U), led by Nitish Kumar in 2015 and Tejashwi Yadav became deputy chief minister.

However, Kumar parted ways from RJD in July 2017 marking the end of Tejashwi’s tenure as deputy CM.

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