A court in Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand on Thursday convicted Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and former Bihar MP Prabhunath Singh after finding him guilty in the 22-year-old murder case of then MLA Ashok Kumar.
Soon after the court convicted Prabhunath Singh -- a three-term JD(U) and one time RJD MP from Maharajganj in north Bihar-- as well as his brother Dinanath Singh and former mukhiya Ritesh Singh, the trio was taken into custody and sent to jail.
The court will pronounce the quantum of punishment on May 23.
Ashok Singh, then Janata Dal MLA from Masrakh in north Bihar’s Saran district, 93 km from Patna, was killed in a bomb attack at his official residence —5 Mangles Road — in the state capital on July 3, 1995.
Another person, identified as Anil Kumar Singh, was also killed and three others were injured in the incident.
A case was registered in connection with the incident at Sachivalaya police station in Patna on the basis of the statement by Ashok Singh’s wife Chandni Devi.
Prabhunath Singh, a political rival of the victim, was named accused in the murder case. During investigation, police also found complicity of Prabhunath Singh’s relatives Kedar Singh, Ritesh Singh and Sudhir Singh.
In 1997, the Supreme Court transferred the case from Patna to Hazaribagh, then in undivided Bihar, after the family of the slain MLA expressed apprehension that the accused could influence the trial.
Chandni Devi and Ashok Singh’s mother Basanti Devi said although it took 22 long years, the culprits had finally been brought to justice.
Ashok Singh’s brother Tarkeshwar Singh, told HT over phone on Thursday that the then Masrakh MLA was killed 90 days after he defeated Prabhunath Singh, then candidate of candidate of Bharatiya Pragatisheel Party, in the 1995 assembly election. “Prabhunath had openly said that my brother will be killed within 90 days of becoming legislator,” Tarkeshwar Singh said.
Prabhunath Singh joined Janata Dal in 1995, and later became a member Janata Dal(United). At present, he is with the RJD and is considered close to party chief Lalu Prasad.
Tarkeshwar Singh said some unidentified men had fired at Ashok on December 28, 1991 also when he was visiting the Saran district council complex at Chapra. In 2008, a Patna court had acquitted Prabhunath Singh and Kedar Singh in the case lodged for attempt on Ashok Singh’s life, he said.
The arrest of Prabhunath Singh, who wields influence in Siwan and Gopalganj districts, is being seen as a setback for Lalu Prasad, already under attack for alleged dubious land deals by his family. Another RJD strongman from the region, Mohammad Shahabuddin is already in Tihar jail in New Delhi.
Soon after Prabhunath Singh’s arrest, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi took a dig at chief minister Nitish Kumar on microblogging site Tweeter. “Sahabuddin, Prabhunath Singh (convicted today in Mla murder case) are pillars of Nitish good governance. Kudos Nitishji,” Modi said.
In another tweet, the BJP leader said: “He is same Prabhunath Singh (convicted today in Mla murder case) who reached fst in Lalu’s support 2 days back.”.