Lucknow, Sept. 2: Rogues yesterday, royalty today.
After the sudden regime change in Uttar Pradesh, Independent MLAs Raghuraj Pratap Singh and Dhananjay Singh — charged with murder and other crimes and jailed by the Mayavati government — are getting the royal treatment in Lucknow’s civil hospital.
Hundreds of admirers throng the hospital to pay homage, while the likes of Union minister Rajnath Singh and Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh consider it an honour to visit them.
The policemen, who once kept them in shackles, stand guard. Outside the hospital, strut Akhilesh Pratap Singh and Yashwant Singh, their fingers raised in victory sign. “We know they are declared absconders, but our hands are tied,” whimpers an overawed cop.
The troubled course of justice in Uttar Pradesh seems to have come full circle. Six months ago, Mayavati supporter Mukhtar Ansari, an accused under the now-defunct Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, could walk out of jail, visit the police headquarters and order the top brass around. Now, it is the turn of Raghuraj Pratap, or Raja Bhaiyya — who was booked under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which replaced Tada — to call the shots.
“In a state legislature where more than 50 per cent MLAs have a criminal past, the dividing line between good guys and bad guys depends on which side you are,” said an IPS officer.
Mulayam Singh Yadav defended the move to set the MLAs booked for heinous crimes free as a matter of principle. “They were victims of a political vendetta,” the chief minister said.
“Why harp on an old story'” he said with a wave of his hand when reminded that not long back, former chief minister Kalyan Singh and Samajwadi general secretary Amar Singh had branded Raja Bhaiyya Goonda of Kunda.
While his government has to wait for the court’s nod before setting Raja Bhaiyya and Dhananjay Singh free, several MLAs on the police “wanted” list were seen moving around the Assembly when the House met today.
Aides confirmed that the Samajwadi wanted all MLAs in jail to be available to vote during the test of Mulayam’s strength. No wonder, most of the dozen-odd jailed MLAs have bought their freedom by extending support to the Samajwadi leader.
The few Mayavati loyalists who have not switched sides have found that the state government is stiffly opposing their application for bail.
Some legal experts are surprised that a chief minister could announce that individuals charged under the anti-terror act or the gangster act would be released because they were falsely implicated.
“Once the state has submitted the chargesheet, it is for the courts and not politicians to decide if the charges are substantiated by the evidence or not,” said criminal lawyer I.B. Singh.
The legal experts are wondering whether the Mulayam Singh government is also going to allege “misuse” of law, now that it has formally moved for withdrawal of the cases under the anti-terror law against Raja Bhaiyya and the others.
“If it does, that would be putting the district magistrate and police chiefs concerned as well as those whose orders they were carrying in the dock,” said Anant Shekhar Mishra, a Kanpur lawyer.
Section 58 of the anti-terror act provides for a sentence of up to two years and fine for misuse of the law, he pointed out. “If the misuse is proved, the courts can also order payment of compensation to the victim.”