In a significant development, the Supreme Court today set aside the bail granted by Patna High Court on September 7 to gangster-turned RJD politician Mohd Shahabuddin and ordered that he be taken into custody forthwith.
Quashing the bail, a bench of justice P C Ghosh and justice Amitava Roy said : "we have discussed everything. We have set aside the High Court order".
"Consequential steps be taken immediately by the state. The trial in the case may be concluded as early as possible".
Petitions challenging the bail was filed by activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan representing Chandrakeshwar Prasad of Siwan, whose three sons were murdered allegedly at the behest of Shahabuddin, and the Bihar government.
It is to be noted that vehemently pleading against cancellation of bail, Shahabuddin’s lawyer Shekhar Naphade yesterday told the court that though cognisance of the case was taken on February 25, 2015, he had not been served the chargesheet till date — a mandatory requirement under the criminal law.
He had also told the court that Bihar government was delaying the trial. Alleging “media trial” against his client, Naphade argued that he had got bail in so many cases and this was not the only one and questioned “Why the petitioners were not citing that?”
Shifting Shahabuddin from Siwan to Bhagalpur Central Jail had also caused the delay, he said adding "It is a conscious attempt on their (Bihar government) part that trial should not proceed. The moment the trial starts it will not stand as there is no evidence of alleged conspiracy against me," Naphade told the court.
On Wednesday, the SC had slammed the Bihar government for not being serious in opposing Shahabuddin’s bail in Patna High Court and then rushing to Supreme Court after his release.
“Why have you approached the court only after his release? Were you in slumber till he got bail? This is a peculiar case. But the question is this peculiarity has been done at whose instance and who is behind this. Why you did not challenge bail granted to Shahabuddin in 45 cases? Why did you realise only when he came out of jail? If everything was fair, why would this case come to us, the bench asked senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi who appeared for state of Bihar.
Dwivedi had argued that the decision to enlarge the RJD leader was improper as the High Court had ignored the relevant material in the case. He also said the same judge had in February this year denied him bail on the ground that he was facing trial for several heinous offence and had also been convicted in ten serious crime cases.
Earlier, activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan who is the main petitioner representing Chandrakeshwar Prasad of Siwan, whose three sons were murdered allegedly at the behest of Shahabuddin and is seeking cancellation of bail granted by Patna HC argued that Shahabuddin was a "class A historysheeter who could threaten intimidate and even eliminate witnesses in cases pending against him if he continued on bail "given in the most casual manner by the Patna HC".Bhushan reminded the bench that he was convicted in 8 cases out of a total of 58 criminal cases for which he has been booked. “He is involved in nine cases of murder, 21 cases in which the punishment is seven years plus”.Bhushan contended that there was “total non-application of mind” on the part of Patna High Court which granted the bail on September 7.
Bhushan said in the petition that it was strange that the Patna HC decided to grant bail to Shahabuddin when he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of two of Prasad's sons, Girish and Satish, in Siwan in 2004 by bathing them in acid.
The third son, Rajiv, the sole witness to the chilling murders, was killed in June 2014 while on his way to depose in court.
Ironically, the same Patna HC had refused bail to Shahabuddin in February and had directed that trial in the Rajiv murder case be expedited.
However, after seven months, Justice Jitendra Mohan Sharma of the HC granted him bail.
Bhushan said grant of bail to a “notorious history-sheeter“ would affect fairness of the trial as his presence outside would have a “chilling effect on witnesses“.
Observing that the Patna High Court committed a grave error by granting the bail, Bhushan has asked how a free and fair trial will be possible when the history-sheeter is out on bail and said a situation will arise where witnesses cannot depose freely and without fear.
Read the order here.