Why urgency to stay Shahabuddin bail now, SC asks Bihar government

New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Monday mocked the avowed seriousness of the Bihar government in pursuing its petition challenging a Patna High Court order granting bail to RJD strongman and former party MLA Mohammad Shahabuddin, asking if it was so serious then why did it not challenge the order in the first instance.

As senior counsel for the state government Dinesh Dwivedi said that “it’s a matter of extreme urgency and we are pursuing the matter seriously”, the bench of Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Amitava Roy said “You should have acted before” and challenged it.

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The observation by the bench assumes significance as the Bihar government moved the Supreme Court challenging the grant of bail to Shahabuddin by the high court only after Chandrakeshwar Prasad — the father of the murder victims — approached the apex court.

Having made light of the Bihar government’s claim of urgency and seriousness, the court deferred the hearing for Wednesday after the senior counsel appearing for Shahabuddin sought a week’s time so that they could arrange a number of bail orders passed by various courts for placing them before the bench.

As senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Shahabuddin, sought adjournment for one week, another advocate also sought a week’s time, so that senior counsel Ram Jethamalani, who too would appear for Shahabuddin, could be briefed.

However, as Naphade sought a week-long adjournment, alleging that Shahabuddin has become a victim of trial by the media, the bench said they would not like to postpone the hearing even by a day.

“Since allegations and counter-allegations have been made, we don’t intend to adjourn the matter. So many witnesses have been bumped off. You want to wash away everything,” the court asked.

But, later, the judges indicated that they would adjourn the matter until Wednesday considering that defence counsel Ram Jethmalani is yet to be briefed on the matter.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner and slain Rajiv’s father Chandrakeshwar Prasad, urged the court to stay the September 7 Patna High Court order granting Shahabuddin bail. But Justice Ghose declined to put on hold the high court order immediately, saying: “We don’t intend to pass an order of stay at this stage.”

Dinesh Dwivedi pleaded: “There is only one eye-witness in the case and if he is bumped off, then both cases — the twin-murder (of two sons of Prasad) case and the Rajiv Roshan murder (of his third son) case — would collapse.”

As Bhushan pressed for a stay on bail, Naphade drew the attention of the bench to the dates saying that the high court granted bail to Shahabuddin on September 7, he was released from jail on September 10 and the petition challenging the decision to grant bail was filed on September 16.

Opposing the plea by Bhushan, senior counsel Naphade told the court that they are seeking adjournment also because they have to file some orders granting bail to Shahabuddin from various courts in Bihar.

The top court had on September 19 issued notice to Shahabuddin on a plea by Prasad, challenging the grant of bail to him in a murder case by the Patna High Court.

Prasad has moved the apex court against the granting of bail to Shahabuddin, as the trial in the Rajiv Roshan murder case is yet to commence.

Even though Shahabuddin was already in jail in the twin-murder case, in the Rajiv Roshan case, the Siwan strongman was shown as arrested on November 27, 2014.

Rajiv was allegedly killed by the henchmen of Shahabuddin, who was sentenced to life in the twin-murder case. Shahabuddin’s henchmen killed Rajiv, as he was the sole eye-witness in the twin-murder case.

The petition describes Shahabuddin as a “hardened criminal” with no scope of his being reformed. The petitioner has said that Shahabuddin was involved in 58 cases, of which in at least eight, he has been convicted. In two cases, he was sentenced to life imprisonment and 10 years’ jail in another case.