Witnesses in cases controversial RJD leader Shahabuddin has been facing have been "bumped off", the Supreme Court said today, rejecting his claim of facing "media trial" in a murder case and his vehement plea for more time to prepare for his defence.
Shahabuddin's claim did not cut much ice with the apex court which asked him to be ready on Wednesday to justify why his bail should not be revoked.
"Since there are allegations and counter allegations being made in the case, we do not intend to further adjourn the matter. Many witnesses have been bumped off.
"We have to strike a balance by hearing both parties," a bench of Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy said when the counsel for the RJD strongman sought a week's time to go through the voluminous records and brief noted senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who is to argue the case for Shahabuddin.
The bench, which adjourned the hearing till September 28, denied further time by acceding to the plea of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing Chandrakeshwar Prasad who lost his three sons in two separate crimes, that the man in question was a threat to other remaining witnesses.
Rebutting this strongly, senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who appeared for Shahabuddin, alleged that his client was facing "media trial" and lawyers like Bhushan were behaving like sole custodians of public morality.
"They are the self proclaimed custodian of public morality. Today, I am being tried by the media," he said while referring to some remarks made on social networking sites by Bhushan and submitted that they are "very disturbing".
"Everyday, this man is posing threat to the society. Look at the chart (of cases against Shahabuddin). He has been convicted in 10 cases. 45 criminal cases are pending against him. Life imprisonment has been awarded in two cases," Bhushan replied adding that if the hearing was being adjourned, then the High Court order granting him bail be stayed.
The submission found favour from the Nitish Kumar-led government in Bihar, in which RJD is a crucial partner.
"It is a matter of extreme urgency. There is only one eye witness in the case, that is the elderly father whose three sons have been killed and if anything happens to him (Chandrakeshwar Prasad) then both the cases will collapse," the state government counsel told the bench.
Irked over the submission, the bench questioned the delay on part of state government in challenging the HC order saying "we know what urgency you have shown in the matter".
At the outset, the counsel for Shahabuddin sought adjournment of the hearing saying he needed to go through the voluminous court records and prepare defence in the matter, which was being "unnecessarily hyped" by the media.
"On September 7, the bail was granted and he was released on September 10. The SLP has been filed on September 16. Where were they? Why there was no urgency shown by them," Naphade asked.
To this, the bench said "we don't intend to delay it further. You just bring the documents and be ready (on that day). We don't intend to pass any order today. We will hear both the parties."
On further plea of non-availability of Jethmalani on Wednesday, the date fixed for hearing, the court said "let us start on that day and we will also hear him (Jethmalani) thereafter".
It also said that witnesses were being "bumped off" and it would not be feasible to delay the hearing further.
Three appeals, filed by Prasad, his wife Kalawati and Bihar government respectively, were listed for hearing today.
The apex court detagged one of the appeals filed by Kalawati Devi challenging the bail granted to Shahabuddin in twin murder case in which he has been awarded life term.
The court decided to hear two appeals together pertaining to grant of bail by the Patna High Court in the murder case of Rajiv Roshan, the sole witness of murder of his two younger siblings.
The trial in the Roshan murder case is pending and bail has been granted in the matter on the ground that the proceedings have not begun in it.
Shahabuddin, who was granted bail by the Patna High Court on September 7, was released from Bhagalpur jail on September 10. He was in jail for 11 years in connection with dozens of cases against him.
On September 19, 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 allegedly by the henchmen of the controversial politician, had moved the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of bail granted to him in the case in which he has already been sentenced to life.
Devi, in her plea filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said her sons, Girish and Satish, were abducted by Shahabuddin's henchmen. They were brutally assaulted and killed by acid poured on them and their bodies, packed in a sack full of salt, buried.
The plea also alleged that Devi's third son, Rajiv Roshan, was also abducted then but had managed to escape. He was an eye-witness to the killing of his two brothers.
She claimed that during pendency of trial in the twin murder case, Roshan was killed in June 2014 allegedly at the behest of Shahabuddin who is facing trial in the case.
In her plea, Devi had said that as per an affidavit filed by the Bihar government in the apex court, till November 2014, trials in at least 38 cases were pending against him in which he was facing alleged heinous charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting with deadly weapon, extortion and others.