New Delhi: Controversial Rhastriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Shahabuddin could be in for trouble as the Supreme Court of India on Monday agreed to hear next week a plea seeking quashing of a Patna High Court order granting him bail in the murder of a person who had witnessed the gruesome killing of his two younger siblings at Siwan in the east Indian state of Bihar.
The apex court, which for the present did not allow the interim prayer for stay on operation of Patna High Court's bail order asked Shahabuddin, against whom 58 criminal cases were pending in 2014, to respond to the plea of Siwan-based Chandrakeshwar Prasad whose three sons were killed in two separate incidents.
Keeping coalition compulsions aside, the Nitish Kumar-led government went a step ahead of Prasad's plea and sought issuance of non-bailable warrant (NBW), against the RJD strongman who has termed Kumar as "chief minister of circumstances" on his release from Bhagalpur jail recently.
A bench of Justices PC Ghose and Amitava Roy, which heard advocate Prashant Bhushan and Bihar government's plea for nearly an hour, however said "we intend to give him a hearing also".
"Issue notice on the Special Leave Petition as also on the prayer for interim relief seeking stay of the impugned Order dated September 7, 2016 passed by the High Court of Patna, returnable on Monday, the September 26," it said.
Bhushan, appearing for Prasad also known as Chanda Babu, said Shahabuddin was a "notorious criminal" and his reign of terror was "in Bihar in general and in Siwan in particular".
"As per the affidavit filed by Bihar government in 2014 in another case, there are 58 criminal cases pending against Shahabuddin and out of them he has been convicted in eight cases.
In two of the cases, he was awarded life sentence by a trial court," he said.
Shahabuddin had been granted bail recently by the High Court in the murder case of Rajiv Roshan, Prasad's son who was the sole eye-witness to the cold-blooded murder of his two younger brothers in Siwan.
The RJD leader has already been convicted and awarded life imprisonment in the twin murder case, while the trial in the Roshan murder case is yet to commence.
Bhushan said the High Court considered the fact that the trial in Roshan murder case could not begin as Shahabuddin was jailed at Bhagalpur prison and enlarged him on bail.
Bhushan said "the High Court order at best could have been that the trial could be allowed to be conducted from Bhagalpur jail through video conference".
He said Shahabuddin should have been rather shifted to a jail outside Bihar, alleging that his clout was such that jail authorities in the state allowed him to meet his associates.
He claimed that during a raid, 40 mobile phones were recovered from his cell and there were reports that even Shahabuddin was often allowed to go out of the prison as a result of which, a Jail Superintendent was once suspended for letting it happen.
During the hearing, the apex court asked Bhushan whether he was seeking cancellation of bail granted to Shahabuddin or was he challenging the Patna High Court order.
"I am challenging the Patna High Court order granting him bail," Bhushan replied and referred to various case laws to highlight the point that criminal antecedent of an offender should be considered alongside other relevant materials while granting bail.
He said free and fair trial was not possible in pending cases against the RJD politician who is out on bail as witnesses and people would be fearful of deposing against him.
"In a case of another Bihar don Pappu Yadav, the apex court had laid down guidelines which should have been followed by the High Court while granting bail," Bhushan said, adding that the relief was granted to the controversial leader contrary to the principles laid down by this court.
Terming Shahabuddin as a "class-A history sheeter who cannot be reformed", the lawyer said the High Court should not have granted bail to him.
Bihar government also supported the submission of Bhushan and referred to the earlier apex court order denying bail to Shahabuddin to drive home the point that mere longer incarceration does not entitle him for grant of bail.
The apex court had on September 16 agreed to hear the plea seeking cancellation of bail granted to Shahabuddin.
Bihar government had earlier said the High Court had failed to follow its own order of February asking the trial court to complete the trial in the Roshan murder case within nine months.
The state government had also said that HC ignored the crucial aspect that key witnesses did not turn up to depose in these cases due to fear and the clout wielded by the dreaded gangster, who before pronouncement of judgement in the murder case of Prasad's two sons, allegedly conspired from the jail to eliminate his third son, Rajiv Roshan, the prime witness in the case.
It had contended that the High Court overlooked the apex court judgement, which had held as correct its decision to conduct the trial of cases against Shahabuddin from jail itself considering the threat to witnesses.
In his plea, Prasad has said the High Court's September 7 order granting regular bail to Shahabuddin "suffers from total non-application of mind" as it had "completely lost sight of the facts that Respondent No 2 (Shahabuddin) is a dreaded criminal, who has absolutely no regard for the law, and granting bail to him would let him come out of the jail as a free man even though he is still facing trial in many of the cases lodged against him."
The plea further said that on May 13 this year, journalist Rajdev Ranjan was killed in Siwan and it was alleged that Shahabuddin was behind his killing also.
In August 2004, Girish, Satish and their eldest brother Rajiv Roshan, the three sons of the petitioner, were picked up by a henchmen of the gangster and taken to his native village Pratappur, where they were drenched in acid.
Both Girish and Satish died but Roshan, who witnessed the killings, managed to escape.
However on June 16, 2014, Roshan was also allegedly murdered and Shahabuddin was arrested for this killing on November 17, 2014.
Slain scribe Rajdev Ranjan's wife has also moved apex court seeking transfer of the probe and trial in the murder case to Delhi from Siwan, alleging that media reports have shown two absconding killers of her husband in the company of Shahabuddin and Bihar Health Minister Tej Pratap Yadav.
She has sought relief including a direction to CBI, to which probe has been transferred, to take up the investigation forthwith.