RJD MP from Siwan, Mohd Shahabuddin was on Tuesday awarded life imprisonment in a case involving abduction and subsequent disappearance of a CPI-ML worker Chote Lal Gupta on February 5,1999. Since then, Gupta could be recovered. This is only the second time that a sitting MP has been awarded life imprisonment.
The designated court of Additional District and Sessions Judge Gyaneshwar Prasad Srivastava awarded the life sentence and a fine of Rs 10,000 to the incarcerated MP as soon as the court convened in the morning. The court also gave him three-month time to go into an appeal against the sentence before a higher court.
The court had on last Saturday found him guilty, while acquitting him in two other cases, but reserved the judgement on the quantum of punishment for Tuesday. He has been convicted under Section 364 (kidnapping or abduction in order to murder).
Shahabuddin was awarded a two-year sentence in March this year in a case involving attack on the CPI-ML office in which party secretary Keshav Baitha was abducted and brutally assaulted. There are nearly 31 more cases against the MP for various kinds of crime, including under Arms Act and Wildlife Protection Act.
Additional Advocate General (AAG) RB Mahto said the MP had been convicted on the basis of ‘circumstantial evidences’ and deposition of the lone eyewitness Sheetal Paswan, who lodged the FIR. "The law clearly says if a person remains untraced for a period exceeding seven years, he is treated as dead," Mahto added.
The AAG said that the court case could reach a logical end because of a number of factors, including security to the witnesses and even the judges. "The new government made arrangements for speedy trial inside the court, which infused confidence in the witnesses. Earlier, they often refused to depose," he added.
Mahto said that the prosecution examined seven witnesses, while the defence examined three, including two former ministers Awadh Bihari Choudhary and Ajajul Haque, besides the manager of Vivek Gun House. "After hearing the arguments, the court gave the order on the basis of a Supreme Court judgment in the Ghanshyam Singh case in 2003," he added.
Asked about the impact of the judgment, Mahto said under Section 8(3) of the People Representation Act, 1951, "if an appeal is filed before a higher court within three months, he will not lose his membership. However, this provision in the law has also been challenged in the Supreme Court by a lawyer in the Patna High Court Basant Kumar Choudhary The SC has issued notice to the Centre in the case."
Mahto and Raj Kuamr Rajesh represented the prosecution, while Kanhaiya Prasad Singh and Abhay Kumar Rajan defended the case. Rajan told media persons that his client would move the higher court as early as possible. "We will decide the future course of action after receiving the copy of the judgment," he added.
All along the proceedings in the court, Shahabuddin was present in the court. Outside, there was no trace of the large crowd, which earlier used to be the case during his court appearances. There was, however, elaborate security measures outside the jail premises, where the special court is located, as well as in Siwan.
Siwan DSP Sudhir Kumar said that police patrolling had been intensified in sensitive pockets. "We are totally vigilant and all the police stations."