The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed that Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) strongman Mohammad Shahabuddin be shifted from Bihar’s Siwan jail to Tihar jail here on the plea of the widow of slain Siwan journalist Rajdeo Ranjan.
Asha Ranjan has termed the apex court order a victory for her. Her husband was allegedly ordered killed by Shahabuddin last year.
Asha Ranjan had urged that Shahabuddin be shifted to Tihar to ensure a free and fair trial in the case.
Directing the Bihar government to transfer Shahabuddin to Tihar Jail, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Amitava Roy said it should be done in a week’s time.
Shahabuddin is facing trial in 45 cases. The top court had sent him back to jail on September 30, 2016, as it reversed a September 7, 2016, Patna High court order granting him bail.
The bench said the authorities escorting Shahabuddin to Tihar should “strictly follow the rules applicable to the transit prisoners and no special privilege shall be extended” to him.
The bench also said that the trial in pending cases should be “conducted by video conferencing by the concerned trial court”.
The bench in its order noted that in certain cases the Patna High Court had granted stay, and requested the High Court to dispose of the said matters within four months.
The court’s order came on a plea by Asha Ranjan whose journalist husband Rajdeo Ranjan, – the Siwan bureau chief of Hindi daily Hindustan – was shot dead in May last year allegedly at the instance of Shahabuddin for exposing his activities in Siwan jail, and another plea by Chandrakeshwar Prasad whose three sons were killed in two separate incidents by the henchmen of the RJD strongman.
The plea for shifting Shahabuddin to Delhi was backed by the Bihar government which had on November 29 last year told the top court that it was not averse to it, including transfer of trial in 45 cases.
The court rejected as “unacceptable” the argument advanced on his behalf that the top court in exercise of its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution cannot transfer Shahabuddin to any other jail in another state.
The court said it is the “obligation and duty of this Court to ensure free and fair trial”.
The court also said the matter relating to the plea for registration of FIR against RJD president Lalu Prasad’s son Tej Pratap Yadav, who is Health Minster in Bihar, and Siwan Superintendent of Police would be heard on April 21, 2017.
Police have already arrested Upender Singh, an aide of Shahabuddin, in connection with Rajdeo Ranjan’s killing. Singh is known as a sharpshooter of Shahabuddin.
Police in Siwan have said that Ranjan’s killing was part of a pre-planned conspiracy.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the murder.
Chandrakeshwar Prasad, father of three brothers allegedly killed at the instance of Shahabuddin, voiced his happiness at the development.
“Now, we will live here without any fear and hope to get justice,” Prasad, who along with his wife Kalavati Devi has been living at their house in Siwan town despite threats, told IANS over telephone.
He also said that at last Siwan will be “free from Shahabuddin’s terror”.
“Shahabuddin’s presence in Siwan jail for years was enough to create terror among people. We have been demanding for long to shift him from Siwan jail to Tihar jail in Delhi for free trial to ensure justice to us.”
Both Prasad and his wife said they had faith in the justice of the Supreme Court.
“After God, we have our hopes pinned on the apex court for justice,” they said.
Asha Ranjan said: “Shahabuddin’s shifting from Siwan to Tihar jail in Delhi will provide us a sense of relief and peace. There will be no fear or threat.”
Asha, a contractual teacher in a government-run school in Siwan, said she had appealed to the apex court to shift Shahabuddin from Siwan to Tihar jail last year.