Shahabuddin sentenced to life for murder


Patna : Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP Mohammed Shahabuddin was Tuesday sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a political activist in 1999. This could disqualify him from contesting parliamentary elections again.

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Additional District and Sessions Judge Gyaneshwar Prasad Srivastava of a special court inside the Siwan jail, 150 km from here, also fined Shahabuddin Rs.1,000 for the kidnap and murder of Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) worker Chhote Lal Gupta in 1999.

The court had Saturday convicted Shahabuddin on the basis of circumstantial evidence under Section 364 (kidnapping or abducting in order to murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

Gupta, a trader by vocation, was abducted in 1999 after which his whereabouts were unknown.

"According to section 8(3) of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951, a person is disqualified from contesting elections if convicted for more than two years," said M.P. Gupta, a lawyer at Patna High Court.

"This provision will certainly disqualify him from contesting elections in 2009. It all depends on the Election Commission," he added.

Shahabuddin's counsel Manoj Singh told reporters that they would challenge the special court's verdict in the Patna High Court.

RJD spokesperson Shayam Rajak also said they would move the high court to challenge the verdict.

"We will appeal in the higher court and are optimistic that Shahabuddin will get justice," Rajak said.

Soon after Shahabuddin was sentenced, the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) demanded the cancellation of his Lok Sabha membership.

"We welcome the special court's verdict against Shahabuddin and demand that the Lok Sabha speaker cancel Shahabuddin's membership on the grounds of conviction and life imprisonment in a criminal case," CPI-ML state secretary Ramjatan Sharma told IANS over telephone.

The party also demanded that RJD chief and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad take action against his convicted party MP.

"We will demand that Lalu Prasad oust Shahabuddin from the RJD, It is high time Lalu should come out either to protect convicted Shahabuddin or reject him," Sharma said.

But Shahabuddin's supporters said it was up to the MP to decide whether he wanted to resign or not.

"There is no legal compulsion for him to resign. He is an MP and will continue till 2009 if he wants," a supporter remarked.

This is the second time Shahabuddin has been sentenced in a criminal case by the special court. In March, he was convicted of attacking the CPI-ML office in Siwan town Sep 19, 1998.

Shahabuddin and his armed supporters bombed the premises, damaged furniture and assaulted office secretary Keshav Baitha.

A Lok Sabha member from Siwan since 1996, Shahabuddin is involved in 40 criminal cases, including those of murder, abduction and possession of illegal arms.

Currently lodged in Siwan jail, he was arrested in Delhi more than a year ago following seizure of arms from his ancestral house in Siwan.

Earlier this year, the Patna High Court directed that all pending cases against him be tried by a special court set up by the state government in Siwan jail.