The Supreme Court of India directed the transfer of gangster-turned-RJD leader Mohammad Shahabuddin from a prison in Siwan to the national capital’s Tihar Jail within a week and conduct of trial in 45 criminal cases through video-conferencing to ensure that witnesses depose without fear.
The bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Amitava Roy passed the directions while allowing two separate petitions filed by Asha Ranjan, widow of journalist Rajdev Ranjan who was shot dead last year, and Chandrakeshwar Prasad, whose three sons were killed allegedly at the behest of Shahabuddin.
“It would be a travesty if we ignore the assertion that if the respondent No. 3 Shahabuddin is not shifted from Siwan Jail and the trial is held at Siwan, justice, which is necessitous to be done in accordance with law, will suffer an unprecedented set back and the petitioners would remain in a constant state of fear that shall melt their bones. This would imply balancing of rights. An accused who has been able to, by his sheer presence, erode the idea of safety of a witness in court or for that matter impairs and rusts the faith of a victim in the ultimate justice and such erosion is due to fear psychosis prevalent in the atmosphere of trial, is not to be countenanced as it is an unconscionable situation. Such a hazard is not to be silently suffered because the ‘Majesty of Justice’ does not allow such kinds of complaints to survive,” Justice Misra is reported to have written in his judgement.
The apex court noted that Shahabuddin has already been declared a history-sheeter type “A” – that is, someone beyond reform. He has been booked in 75 cases, of which he has been convicted in 10 and is facing trial in 45. In 20 cases he has been acquitted, while trial in five others is due for commencement.
“He is an influential person of the locality, for he has been a representative to the Legislative Assembly on two occasions and elected as a Member of Parliament four times. This is not a normal and usual case. It has to be dealt with in the aforesaid factual matrix. A history-sheeter has criminal antecedents and sometimes becomes a terror in society,” Justice Misra said, while referring to the allegations that two sons of Prasad were drenched in acid and the third son who was a witness to the gruesome murders was also killed at the alleged instance of Shahabuddin.
Accordingly the court directed Shahabuddin’s transfer and conduct of trial in all cases pending against him in Bihar through video-conferencing.