Underlining his criminal antecedents and “societal interest”, the Supreme Court Friday cancelled the bail of RJD leader Mohammad Shahabuddin and directed the Bihar government to take him into custody immediately.
A bench of Justice P C Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy set aside the bail order passed by the Patna High Court on September 7, and held that “the High Court was not justified in granting bail” to the gangster-turned politician.
“The order passed by the High Court granting bail to the respondent-accused is set aside and the State is directed to take all consequential steps, inter alia, for taking him into custody forthwith,” stated the order passed by the apex court at 1 pm.
About two hours later, Shahabuddin, a four-time MP from Siwan, turned himself in and surrendered before a court in Siwan, which sent him to divisional jail. Shahabuddin will be remitted to Bhagalpur jail, from where he was released on September 10.
Asked whether his bail was challenged by the Bihar government because he had called Nitish Kumar a “circumstantial CM” after getting out of jail, Shahabuddin told reporters, “I respect the judiciary and was ready to surrender as soon as the Supreme Court cancelled my bail. My supporters will give a befitting reply to Nitish Kumar in the next elections.”
Though RJD chief Lalu Prasad did not react to the development, senior RJD minister Abdul Bari Siddiqui said, “Though I do not wish to comment on the court order, I must say that it was Patna High Court that had granted Shahabuddin bail.”
A source close to Lalu said the RJD chief was “unhappy” with Shahabuddin targeting Nitish, and that the two had not spoken ever since he was let out of jail on bail. Police deployment was, meanwhile, intensified in and around Pratappur, Shahabuddin’s native village. A source close close to him said Shahabuddin sensed his bail order would be cancelled after the Supreme Court recently made stern observations regarding the case.
The Supreme Court was hearing a batch of appeals filed by the Bihar government and the parents of three men, killed allegedly at the behest of the RJD leader. Shahabuddin has been convicted and sentenced to life term for murdering two sons of complaints Chandrakeshwar Prasad alias Chanda Babu and Kalawati Devi. The trial for allegedly killing their third son, who was an eyewitness to the murder of his brothers, is yet to commence. The High Court, ruing the delay in commencing this trial, had granted Shahabuddin bail on September 7.
After the court order, Chandrakeshwar Prasad said, “The court order is a morale boost not just for us but also for hapless people like us. We are relieved. Shahabuddin should be shifted to a jail outside Bihar.” His wife said, “What can a mother say? I have lost three sons. We have hopes only in the judiciary.”
The apex court relied on a body of judgments adduced by the parents’ counsel Prashant Bhushan, who had asserted that a court’s discretion to grant bail had to be subject to crucial factors such as severity of the crime, antecedents of the accused and possibility of his intimidating witnesses.
The bench agreed with Bhushan’s contentions and said, “In the instant case, having regard to the recorded allegations against the accused and the overall factual scenario, we are of the view, having regard in particular to the present stage of the case in which the impugned order has been passed, that the High Court was not justified in granting bail on the considerations recorded.”
It further noted: “Balancing the considerations of individual liberty and societal interest as well as the prescriptions and the perception of law regarding bail, it appears to us that the High Court has erred in granting bail to the accused without taking into consideration the overall facts…”
The bench also turned down an argument of senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, who represented Shahabuddin, that his client was already on bail in more than four dozen cases of the 60-odd cases filed and pending against him.
On Naphade’s contention that Shahabuddin was in jail when the two brothers were killed, the apex court cited the trial court judgment that the third brother had recorded an eyewitness account of the accused participating in the crime.
Following the SC order, BJP legislature party leader Sushil Kumar Modi said, “The state government has no moral authority to take credit for Shahabuddin’s bail cancellation as the decision to challenge it had come as an afterthought after Chanda Babu engaged Prashant Bhushan. The Supreme Court’s strong reactions on lackadaisical approach of the government only goes to prove that the government had been only helping Shahabuddin.”
But JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi said, “The state government engaged a good lawyer and put forward strong arguments showing how Shahabuddin is a threat inside or outside jail. CM Nitish Kumar has constantly said that there would be no compromise on law and order.”