NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday acquitted the former Union Minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief, Shibu Soren, and four others in the Shashinath Jha murder case, holding that “the prosecution has miserably failed in bringing home the charges against the accused persons.”
Shashinath Jha was the private secretary to Mr. Soren.
A sessions court here last year sentenced Mr. Soren and the co-accused — Nand Kishore alias Nandu, Ajay Kumar Mehta alias Dilip, Pashupati Nath Mehta alias Posho and Shailendra Bhattacharya — to life imprisonment in the case.
The prosecution had sought death sentence for the JMM supremo in the trial court, submitting that though he was not present at the crime scene, his role as a conspirator was sufficient to award him the capital punishment.
Far from convincing
Acquitting Mr. Soren and the four other convicts, a Division Bench, comprising Justices R.S. Sodhi and H.R. Malhotra, said: “The trial court’s analysis of evidence is far from convincing and its judgment under challenge is not sustainable. The judgment is set aside and the appellants are acquitted of all the charges.”
Mr. Soren and the four had approached the High Court in an appeal challenging the trial court’s verdict.
The CBI case against Mr. Soren and the four was that they entered into a conspiracy to kidnap and murder Shashinath Jha.
It alleged that they wanted to eliminate Jha because he had knowledge of payment of bribe to four former JMM MPs, including Mr. Soren, who had voted against the no-confidence motion against the P.V. Narasimha Rao Government in July 1993, and that he was demanding Rs. 15 lakh as his cut in the deal.
Jha was kidnapped on May 22, 1994, from Dhaula Kuan in southwest Delhi and later murdered in a residential colony in Ranchi.
The prosecution had put on record the Supreme Court judgment in the JMM bribery case to prove the motive of the case.
Dismissing the prosecution’s argument, the High Court said: “From a bare reading of the observations of the Supreme Court, it is clear that it has not returned a finding that Mr. Soren is guilty of having accepted the bribe.”
The other material upon which the CBI relied upon to prove the motive of the case was that Mr. Soren had deposited Rs. 30 lakh in the Sarojni Nagar branch of Punjab National Bank here.
The Bench dismissed this argument, saying: “There is nothing on record to show that that the money deposited in the bank by Mr. Soren was dirty money.”
Rejecting the conspiracy charge, the Bench said: “There is no evidence to show as to when and where the conspiracy was hatched, and there is also nothing on record to show that Mr. Soren met any of the accused persons at any time prior to the alleged murder of Jha.”