A retired IRCTC official has moved the Delhi High Court seeking quashing of an order that took cognizance of a charge sheet filed against him in an IRCTC case in which RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, his wife Rabri Devi and son Tejashwi Yadav are also accused.
The petition filed by the then group general manager of IRCTC Vinod Kumar Asthana, in which he sought setting aside of the trial court order on the ground that no requisite sanction was taken to prosecute him, is likely to come up for hearing on February 28.
Lalu, Rabri, Tejashwi and others, including Asthana, were summoned by the trial court on July 30, 2018 in the case related to alleged irregularities in granting operational contract of two IRCTC hotels to a private firm.
They were chargesheeted by the CBI on April 16 last year after the agency said there were enough evidence against them.
Asthana claimed in the plea that the trial court judge failed to appreciate that prima facie there was no evidence against him.
CBI had earlier told the trial court that sanction has been procured from authorities concerned to prosecute the accused, Additional Member of Railway Board B K Agarwal, who was then the group general manager of the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation).
Besides Lalu Prasad and his family members, former Union minister Prem Chand Gupta and his wife Sarla Gupta, Agarwal, then managing director of IRCTC PK 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 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, 2017 and carried out searches at 12 locations in Patna, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar and Gurgaon in connection with the case.
The charge sheet was filed for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy and cheating under IPC and criminal misconduct by public servant and taking illegal gratification under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
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 was alleged that the tender process was rigged and manipulated, and the conditions were tweaked to help the private party (Sujata Hotels).
The agency 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.
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. She was replaced by Nitish Kumar.
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.