Patna HC Upholds Life Term For Mohammad Shahabuddin

Introduction
                                                     Let me at the very outset begin by stating that the Patna High Court on August 30, 2017 upheld a lower district court order of life sentence to former Rashtriya Janata Dal MP and Siwan strongman Mohammad Shahabuddin along with three others in a double murder case for giving an acid bath to two brothers and murdering them 13 years ago. Shahabuddin and the others had challenged their conviction. The former MP is currently lodged in the high security Tihar jail of New Delhi.

                                          No merit
                                          While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my benevolent readers, let me inform them that the Division Bench of Justices KK Mandal and Sanjay Kumar of the Patna High Court said without mincing any words while pronouncing the landmark verdict that, “This court finds no merit to interfere with the judgment of conviction and order of sentence passed by the trial court”.  It must be revealed here that the court had completed the hearing in the case on June 30 but had reserved the order. This is certainly a big jolt for Shahabuddin and three others who were keenly anticipating of getting bail from the High Court but that did not happen!
                                                  For the exclusive indulgence of my benevolent readers, let me also inform them that Shahabuddin’s lawyer had earlier pleaded the trial court order to be quashed as the former MP Shahabuddin’s name had not figured in the initial FIR and was added only after 62 months which is certainly quite a long time. But the High Court was not convinced by these arguments. The High Court felt that there was credible evidence to implicate him in the case.
                                  Life Term Upheld
                                                 It must be brought out here that the Patna High Court while endorsing the life imprisonment awarded to Mohammad Shahabuddin also rejected Shahabuddin’s plea challenging the sentence awarded by the Siwan District Court on December 11, 2015. Shahabuddin and three others were sentenced to life imprisonment by Additional District Judge of Siwan Special Court – Ajay Kumar Srivastava in 2015. Shahabuddin’s lawyer told journalists that the High Court has upheld the life imprisonment conviction and they would now move the Supreme Court for relief.
                         Conviction by lower court
                                              It may be recalled here that while hearing the case of abduction and double murder of Satish Raj and Girish Raj, both young sons of a prominent businessman of Siwan, Chandrakeshwar Prasad alias Chanda Babu, the Special Court in Siwan on December 11, 2015 had sentenced Shahabuddin aand Munna Mian, Sheikh Aslam and Rajkumar Sah. The Special Court of Additional District Judge Ajay Kumar Srivastava had found all the accused persons guilty under Sections 302 (murder), 364A (kidnapping for ransom etc), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
                                 Acid poured
                                        Truth be told, Satish Raj and Girish Raj were abducted and, later, killed by pouring acid on August 16, 2004 allegedly by Shahabuddin and his henchmen. Chanda Babu’s third son, Rajiv Roshan who is an eyewitness in the murder of his brothers, too was shot dead on June 11, 2014, three days before he was to testify. Shahabuddin was accused in the murder of Rajiv Roshan also.
                                    Justice meted out
                                              After the Patna High Court order, Chanda Babu told journalists over phone that. “Justice has finally prevailed and his faith in God restored”. He felt strongly that justice has been meted out to the killers of his 3 sons who were killed one after the other by Shahabuddin and his henchmen. He exclaimed that, “Although my loss is irreparable I’m happy that justice has been done. But Shahabuddin and his aides should have got the death penalty.”
            Other Cases Against Shahabuddin
                                                 Let me hasten to add here that Shahabuddin has a very long past criminal track record. He was convicted on May 8, 2007 by a Special Court that gave him life imprisonment for the abduction of CPI(ML) worker Chhote Lal Gupta in February 1999. On August 30, 2007, he was found guilty of attacking Siwan SP Sanjiv Kumar Singhal. He faces a jail term of 10 years in the case. Till September 10, 2016, he remained incarcerated, shuttling between Bhagalpur and Gaya jail. The Patna High Court on September 7, 2016 granted him bail in a case involving the murder of a witness in the killing of siblings Girish anad Satish Raj. The Supreme Court on September 30, 2016 cancelled Shahabuddin’s bail and directed the Bihar government to take him to custody immediately. Of the 40 criminal cases that he faces, judgment has come in 12 cases. He was acquitted in 4 while he has nearly completed his sentence in 8 other cases. He has been convicted in 10 other cases. In other cases the trial is yet to complete.
                               How the process started
                                        Be it noted, it was after the petition of Chandu Babu and Asha Ranjan, widow of slain journalist Rajdeo Ranjan, that the Supreme Court ordered the Bihar government to shift Shahabuddin to Tihar jail to facilitate a “free and fair trial”. Shahabuddin who is a four-time RJD MP from Siwan and infamous as the “Sultan of Siwan” for many years, is facing trial in more than 40 cases and has been convicted in 8 of them.  
                                         Conclusion
                                                    On a concluding note, it has to be said that the prospects of Shahabuddin getting bail from Supreme Court are very dim. His involvement in so many criminal cases will all go against him. More importantly, the ghastly manner in which the two sons of Chanda Babu were murdered after pouring acid on them and then not sparing even the third son Rajiv Roshan who was aan eye witness are bound to pour cold water on all aspirations of Shahabuddin and 3 others who were involved in the double murder case. But it would be premature to still predict what verdict the Supreme Court will give. But certainly the Patna High Court has dashed all hopes of Mohammad Shahabuddin and 3 others of coming out of jail any time soon and its landmark judgment has vindicated loudly the old adage that, “Law does take time to catch up but when it catches up it doesn’t spare anyone. Be you ever so high, the law is above you”!   
Sanjeeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kaankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.  

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