Bihar MP Prabhunath Singh gets life imprisonment in 1995 murder case, SC says never seen case like this before

Image Source : FILE Ex-RJD MP Prabhunath Singh

The Supreme Court on Friday sentenced former Lok Sabha MP from Bihar Prabhunath Singh to life imprisonment for killing two people on the day of polling for assembly elections in Bihar’s Saran district in 1995. 

A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said Singh, a multiple-term former MP from Bihar’s Maharajganj, and the state of Bihar will have to pay Rs 10 lakh each compensation separately to the families of the two deceased and five lakhs each to an injured victim of the case.  “Never seen a case like this before,” the bench, also comprising Justices A S Oka and Vikram Nath, observed without elaborating.

No options left: SC observes

On August 18, the apex court convicted Singh while overturning the orders of the trial court and the Patna High Court which acquitted him in the case. On Friday, the matter was fixed for hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to the convict. 

At the outset, the bench observed, “There are two options only, there is no third option available…. Life (sentence) or death, these are the only two options”. The counsel representing Singh said it is not a case where the court may consider granting a death sentence. “Do you seriously feel that we are considering a death penalty?” the bench asked.

The counsel said concurrent acquittals by the courts below have been reversed by the apex court in this case and they have also filed a petition seeking review of the top court verdict convicting Singh. The bench observed the review petition will come up for consideration in chambers. The apex court said it is inclined to award compensation and the state will also have to compensate the victims. 

“Life sentence, 10 lakhs each for both the deceased and five lakhs for the injured, both by the respondent number two (Singh) and by the state separately,” the bench said, adding, “We have already announced that, the orders you will get”.

 Investigating officer, the public prosecutor and the judiciary failed to discharge their duties: Court 

On the apex court’s query about Singh’s age, one of the advocates said he is 70 years old. While convicting Singh in the matter, the apex court had observed that it was dealing with a case which was an “exceptionally painful episode of our criminal justice system”. 

The top court had observed there was not even an iota of doubt that Singh was instrumental in making all possible efforts to “wipe out” the evidence against him. It had said the prosecution machinery, as well as the presiding officer of the trial court, were used as a tool of his “high handedness”. The top court had observed the three main stakeholders in a criminal trial — the investigating officer, the public prosecutor and the judiciary — have “utterly failed” to discharge the duties and responsibilities cast upon them. 

The bench had convicted Singh, also a former MLA, for the murders of Daroga Rai and Rajendra Rai and for attempting to kill a woman. It had noted that an FIR was registered on March 25, 1995, at Chapra on the statement of Rajendra Rai, who said that he along with eight to nine other villagers were returning after casting their votes when a car pulled over. 

What happened in 1995?

It was alleged that Singh, who was then contesting the assembly elections as a candidate of the Bihar People’s Party, was sitting in the car and enquired as to who they had voted for. The FIR alleged when Rai answered that they had cast their votes in favour of another political party, Singh opened fire from his rifle and injured three people. The offence of murder under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was added later as two out of the three injured, including Rajendra Rai, died during treatment. 

The top court had delivered its August 18 verdict on an appeal challenging the December 2021 judgement of the Patna High Court which had dismissed a revision petition and confirmed the trial court order acquitting the accused in the case. The apex court had not disturbed the acquittal of other accused in the case, saying their names were not reflected either in the dying declaration of Rajendra Rai or in the statement of his mother, who was a court witness. Singh is currently lodged in Hazaribagh jail after his conviction in the murder of Janata Dal MLA Ashok Singh at the latter’s residence in the high-security zone of the Bihar capital in 1995.

(With inputs from agency)

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