The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the criminal proceedings against former BJP minister Rajendra Singh Rathore in connection with the killing of Rajasthan liquor smuggler Dara Singh in an alleged fake encounter in 2006.

The apex court issued notice and sought response of the CBI on a petition filed by Mr. Rathore challenging the Rajasthan High Court’s order which had set aside the trial court’s decision to discharge him from the case.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir posted the matter for hearing on November 27 and said “till then the criminal proceedings would remain stayed.”

While admitting the appeal of former Rajasthan minister and BJP chief whip in the state assembly, the bench, also comprising justices S S Nijjar and J Chelameswar, said it would decide upon the question of law whether charges can be framed against an accused only on the ground of suspicion.

“This matter only involves question of law,” the bench said after Mr. Rathore’s counsel Ram Jethmalani and Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval, who appeared for the CBI, traded charges against each other.

While Mr. Jethmalani contended that the case against Rathore was politically motivated, Mr. Raval said his chargesheeting in the case was based on evidence.

Mr. Jethmalani said the high court’s single-judge bench order that charges can be framed on suspicion was perverse.

He said the CBI proceeded with the case against Mr. Rathore even after Attorney General G E Vahanvati opined that there was no prima-facie evidence against him and the sessions court also discharged him on the same ground.

Mr. Raval, however, argued that the evidence which would lead to presumption can be a sufficient ground for framing charges against the accused and the CBI has such evidence against him.

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