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Not in evidence

Soren may no longer be charged guilty of the kidnap and murder of his secretary, but how does one explain the bending of rules in Dumka Jail for the incarcerated JMM leader.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2007 22:29 IST

Late last month, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conceded to the Delhi High Court that there was political interference in the case involving JMM leader Shibu Soren’s part in the alleged murder of his private secretary Sashinath Jha. So should we be completely taken aback when some 20 days later, Mr Soren is acquitted because of the lack of evidence? In prison on a life sentence since last year, Mr Soren had appealed against the verdict on the grounds that the trial judge had ignored the DNA report that identified the discovered body as not being that of Jha. It was the onus of the CBI to have got its forensic evidence in order, convinced as it was of Mr Soren’s crime. And it is the CBI, in July, that spoke about Mr Soren being a “powerful” man. The reaction of the two-member bench sums up the piquant situation: “If Soren was a part of the government, then what was your ministry doing [investigating the case]?”

Which brings us back to that much larger question of the criminal-political nexus. Mr Soren may no longer be charged guilty of the kidnap and murder of his secretary, but how does one explain the all-too-often bending of rules in Dumka Jail for the incarcerated JMM leader? The jail manual was tossed out of the barred windows when Mr Soren was shifted to cast his vote during the recent presidential elections. He even reportedly attended a luncheon party earlier this month after appearing in a court for the ongoing trial involving him with an earlier crime — that of the massacre of ten ‘non-tribals’ in 1975. And his ‘chronic sickness’ that led to his spending much of his prison time in ‘posh’ hospitals doesn’t help us to believe that the law took its own course with Mr Soren.

The Delhi High Court has held that “the prosecution has miserably failed to prove the case”. As far as we can tell, the verdict is that the only proven guilty party in the case has been the CBI. It’s bad enough for an alleged killer to be set free simply because the prosecution has been ‘nudged’ to bungle the case. But what’s shameful is that this won’t be the last time a person associated with a serious crime gets away with it by wearing the protective layer of political privilege.