Former Union coal minister Shibu Soren was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court on Tuesday for his involvement in the 1994 abduction and murder of his private secretary Shashi Nath Jha.
On November 28, Soren became the first cabinet minister to be convicted of murder.
Soren, who is the chief of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), a constituent of the ruling UPA, was present in the packed courtroom when the judge handed out the sentence at 6.20 pm Surrounded by policemen, he looked pale, though his supporters started raising slogans in his support.
Additional Sessions Judge BR Kedia also ordered Soren to pay Rs 5 lakh to Jha’s mother and two daughters as compensation.
According to legal experts, Soren, a six-time Lok Sabha member, can retain his membership of the House if he appeals against his conviction and sentence within the next three months.
Four others, whom the court had found guilty along with Soren, were also sentenced for life. Nand Kishore Mehta alias Nandu, Shailender Bhattacharaya, Pashupati Nath Mehta alias Posho and Ajay Kumar Mehta were also fined Rs 15,000 each.
Although Soren has been convicted of conspiracy to murder, and not the deed itself, the CBI, the prosecuting agency in the case, made a strong plea for awarding him and his fellow convicts, the death sentence. It cited the examples of the Parliament attack case and the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, in which the conspirators too were given death sentences by the court.
In response, Soren's counsel RK Anand pleaded that his client should not be given death, considering his age, ill health and stature as a tribal leader.