The Supreme Court on Friday sentenced former Lok Sabha member from Bihar Prabhunath Singh to life imprisonment in a 28-year-old double murder case. He was convicted in 2017 and was lodged in Hazaribagh jail in Jharkhand.
A three-judge Special Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, A.S. Oka and Vikram Nath had taken the rare step, on August 18, to set aside two lower court decisions and find Mr. Singh guilty of the murders. Both the trial court and the Patna High Court had acquitted him in 2008 and 2012, respectively.
Hearing arguments on the sentencing part on Friday, Justice Kaul observed that there were only two punishment options — life sentence or death penalty — before the former MP.
Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for Mr. Singh, highlighted that the two lower courts had found his client innocent after going through the evidence threadbare. The presumption of innocence of Mr. Singh was high. He indicated that the case was fit for seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s guilty verdict.
The top court had, in its August 18 judgment, called Mr. Singh’s trial at best “shabby”. It had found the investigation “tainted”. The court had said the shadow of Mr. Singh’s power and high-handedness as a sitting MP of the then ruling party had pervaded the course of the investigation. The Bench said Mr. Singh, without doubt, had done everything he could to destroy the evidence against him.
The case involved the killing of two people on the day of polling for Assembly election in Chapra in Bihar’s Saran district in March 1995.
The Supreme Court ordered ₹10 lakh each as compensation to the families of the two murdered men.
“I have never seen a case like this before,” Justice Nath said.
Justice Nath, in the August 18 judgment which he authored, said there was a ‘complete failure of State machinery” and the murders and what ensued afterwards formed an “exceptionally painful episode of our criminal justice system”.