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Judiciary

Supreme Court holds former RJD MP Prabhu Nath Singh guilty of murder for shooting down two for voting against him [Read Judgment]

By LAWSTREET NEWS NETWORK      21 August, 2023 05:59 PM      0 Comments
Supreme Court holds former RJD MP Prabhu Nath Singh guilty of murder for shooting down two for voting against him

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday held former RJD MP Prabhunath Singh guilty of murder for shooting down two persons for allegedly voting against him in 1995.

A three-judge bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said this case was exceptionally painful episode of our criminal justice system as police, prosecution and judiciary failed to deal with the case with due sensitivity, involving a powerful leader of the then ruling party.

"We have noticed that the three main stake holders in a criminal trial, namely the Investigating Officer that is the part of the police of the State of Bihar, the Public Prosecutor, and the Judiciary, have all utterly failed to keep up their respective duties and responsibilities cast upon them," the bench said.

The bench reversed the High Court and the trial court's judgements as they failed to notice the sensitivity and intricacies of the case involving the then ruling party leader who mustered full support of the administration and prosecution and won over almost all the witnesses.

The bench, also comprising Justices Abhay S Oka and Vikram Nath, convicted Singh of the offences under Section 302 and 307 of the IPC and directed his production in custody before the court on September 1 for pronouncement of sentence.

Singh is already undergoing life term in another murder case.

Victim's family member Harendra Rai challenged the Patna High Court's judgement of December 2, 2021 which had upheld the trial court's decision of October 24, 2008, acquitting Singh and six others of all the charges related to killing of Rajendra Rai, 18, and Daroga Rai, 47, near a polling booth in Chhapra.

The top court noted a "clear and deliberate lapse" as well as "tainted role" by the prosecution in not producing the investigating officer and other witnesses.

The bench relied upon a statement of injured Rajendra Rai, who subsequently died of gun shot injuries, treating it as a dying declaration.

"The dying declaration and the statement of Lalmuni Devi (mother of deceased) fully establish that it was Prabhunath Singh, who had caused the injuries from his firearm weapon, which proved to be fatal for two out of the three injured and also caused injury to the third surviving injured witness, namely Smt Lalmuni Devi," the bench said.

In its strong observations, the top court said the High Court as well as the trial court failed to exercise their powers to summon the witnesses of the charge-sheet to prove the police papers, in gross violation of Section 311 CrPC.

Justice Nath, who authored the 143-page judgement, noted everything was going as per the plan and wish of the main accused Prabhunath Singh, a political leader and a sitting Member of Parliament at the relevant time as he had mustered full support of the administration and the investigating; he had influenced and won over almost all the witnesses of fact mentioned in the charge sheet (who were declared hostile), the relevant formal witnesses including the investigating officer were not produced in the trial by the prosecution.

The Public Prosecutor prosecuting the case was supporting the defence, the Presiding Officers were completely insensitive towards their pious duty, but everything turned upside down when he committed a glaring mistake and that one mistake cost him heavily, it said.

Singh got the court witness, Smt Lalmuni Devi abducted ten days before the date fixed for recording her statement. This led to filing of a Habeas Corpus petition before the High Court, a report submitted by the Inspecting Judge result of an unruly incident which occurred in the trial court on the date Smt Lalmuni Devi deposed and another report of the inspecting judge commenting upon the judgment of acquittal by the trial court, the bench said.

The top court applied the doctrine of judicial notice as mentioned under Section 56 of the Evidence Act in the case.

"Except in the rarest of rare cases, judicial notice of any fact is generally not taken in criminal matters in the normal course of proceeding, and the case is decided on the basis of oral, material and documentary evidence adduced by the parties to find out the guilt or innocence," the bench said.

The court there is no iota of doubt that Singh was instrumental in making all possible efforts to wipe out the evidence against him and the prosecution machinery as also the presiding officer of the trial court was "used as a tool of his high-handedness".

The bench also said this court is conscious of the fact that a path different from the normal is being adopted to determine the guilt of the accused. The court is compelled to do so in the glaringly peculiar facts of the present case, it added.

The bench said the present matter stands on an altogether different footing in view of what has been noted here.

"It falls in the category of rarest of rare cases and hence, it requires a different approach. This Court, in its considered opinion, finds that the judgement in the Habeas Corpus Petition was passed on the basis of notes of the Inspecting Judge of the High Court, the report Additional Director General of Police, statement of CW-1 Smt Lalmuni Devi recorded in Court before the Magistrate under the directions of High Court, her affidavit filed before the High Court, her statement/disclosure in Bhojpuri before one of Judges hearing the Habeas Corpus petition and several other authoritative materials after giving the opportunity of hearing to the parties, including the accused of the crime in question," the bench said.

In the said judgement, certain inferences, observations and findings arrived at by the Division Bench have a crucial impact on the merit of the present case, as it gives a complete picture as to how the prosecution version in the present case was being demolished brick by brick by using political authority and muscle power with the aid of not only the police administration but  also with the aid of Public Prosecutor and unfortunately, the Presiding Officer of the Trial Court also conducted himself in a manner unbecoming of a Judicial Officer, despite directions and continuous vigil by the High Court, the bench said.

"The judgement dated 13.03.2007, which is a public document, is well discussed and is based upon authoritative materials and was passed in consonance with the doctrine of audi alteram partem. Moreover, it has a torch bearer effect over the facts of the case. Thus, it qualifies the requirement of law for the purpose of taking judicial notice thereof," the bench said.

 

[Read Judgment]



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