New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday came down heavily on Bihar government for not placing facts before the Patna High Court which granted bail to controversial RJD leader Mohd Shahabuddin in a murder case.
The counsel for Nitish Kumar government, which has RJD as its coalition partner in the state, faced searching questions in the apex court which rebuked it for not being serious in pursuing the case against Shahabuddin.
"Why have you approached the court only after his release? Were you in slumber till he got bail? This is a peculiar case. But the question is this peculiarity has been done at whose instance and who is behind this.
"Why you did not challenge bail granted to Shahabuddin in 45 cases? Why did you realise only when he came out of jail? If everything was fair, why would this case come to us," a bench comprising Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy said while clarifying that by peculiarity, it meant negligence.
The observations came after senior advocate Dinesh Dwivedi, appearing for Bihar, sought cancellation of Shahabuddin's bail and said the decision to enlarge the RJD leader was improper as the High Court had ignored the relevant material in the case.
He said the High Court could not have granted him bail unless there was any special reason or any medical urgency.
The senior lawyer admitted there were "anomalies" by the state government in the case.
To this, the bench said, "we can understand your difficulty and the only thing we can say is that we understand everything."
Dwivedi said "I admit the anomalies. I am not in any way justifying the actions of the state government. We were handicapped at that time. But my submission is that the relevant material has been ignored in the case."
The bench then asked him "Why should you be handicapped? You are the state. It was the duty of your lawyer to inform the High Court about the correct facts of the case. It was your duty to inform the High Court that a revision petition has been filed in the session court by Shahabuddin. Why didn't you tell the High Court at that point of time?
"We are just trying to find out what kind of person he is by looking at the background and circumstances of the case.
"How many cases are pending against him, who is a four time Member of Parliament and two times MLA. We are just thinking what is the common man's thought. There are so many cases against him and there are so many bail orders. You did challenge those bail orders," the bench said.
The hearing remained inconclusive and will continue on Thursday.
Dwivedi said Shahabuddin was first sent to jail in 2005 and since then he has been committing crimes from inside the prison. He said the RJD leader was acquitted in most of the cases as many witnesses refused to testify against him.
"Shahabuddin's remaining in jail has hardly made a difference as he has been committing crimes from inside the jail premises as well. And this is the reason that he was shifted to Bhagalpur from Siwan jail," he said.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Siwan-based Chandrakeshwar Prasad whose three sons have been killed in two separate incidents, also sought cancellation of Shahabuddin's bail and said enlarging him on bail was "travesty of justice".
Bhushan said the High Court had erred in granting bail to a history-sheeter who has a criminal antecedents and termed him as a hardened criminal.
Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Shahabuddin, said his client has been suffering from media trial and said the state government has to be fair and cannot play with the liberty of an individual.
He said the state was "only cooking up stories" and causing prejudice to his client's case as he had attained "notoriety".
"It has become a trend in Bihar that if any crime takes place, then it must be Shahabuddin. This has been a fashion now," he said.
Shahabuddin, who was granted bail by the Patna High Court on 7 September, was released from Bhagalpur jail on 10 September. He was in jail for 11 years in connection with dozens of cases against him.
On 19 September, the apex court had sought a response from Shahabuddin on a separate plea filed by Siwan resident Chandrakeshwar Prasad, challenging the bail granted to him by Patna High Court, in the murder case of his third son.
The apex court is also hearing a separate plea filed by the widow of journalist Rajdev Ranjan, who was murdered in Siwan allegedly at the instance of Shahabuddin, seeking transfer of the case to Delhi.
Kalawati Devi, wife of Chandrakeshwar Prasad and the mother of three youths who were brutally killed by henchmen of the controversial politician, had also moved the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of bail granted to him in the case in which he has already been sentenced to life.