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Slapped, Raja Bhaiyya smiles

New Delhi/Lucknow, Nov. 10: Pampered by Mulayam Singh Yadav, Raja Bhaiyya’s charmed life as minister was cut short today when the Supreme Court quashed the decision to withdraw terrorism charges against him and ordered the don to surrender.

Soon after the verdict, the Independent MLA, whose real name is Raghuraj Pratap Singh, resigned “spontaneously” as food and civil supplies minister to pre-empt any Opposition attempt to “tarnish” the Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s image.

Some people accept court orders “grudgingly”, he said in Lucknow. “I have done it with a smile.”

The ruling came after a division bench of Justices B.N. Agrawal and A.K. Mathur agreed with S.K. Shukla, whose son was allegedly murdered by the minister, that withdrawal of terrorism charges was wrong.

The bench ordered Raja Bhaiyya to surrender “within a week” before a designated Kanpur court and said the case should be tried in Madhya Pradesh. The judges said the chief justice of the high court in Madhya Pradesh would establish a “suitable bench” to try the minister.

Sources said the minister might surrender on Monday.

Raja Bhaiyya’s father Uday Pratap and nephew Akshay Pratap, a member of the legislative council, were also told to surrender. The accused could apply for fresh bail according to “procedure established by law”, the judges added.

The court said the order withdrawing terrorism charges against the three was “illegal and unconstitutional” and ordered their trial under the Explosive Substances Act and the Arms Act. The prosecution said weapons, including AK-56 rifles, were seized from their possession during a raid.

The ruling came at a time retired Supreme Court Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti has triggered a debate on the need for a “stringent anti-terror law”. Legislated by the previous BJP-led NDA government, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was scrapped by the Congress-led coalition after it came to power last year.

For Raja Bhaiyya, who is said to have a crocodile pond in his farm in which his victims are thrown and is accused of atrocities on Dalits, the order means the end of a charmed existence. Slapped with terror charges by the earlier Mayavati government, the MLA from Kunda, in Pratapgarh, was released from jail and terror charges against him revoked after the Samajwadi Party came to power.

“Our previous government stands vindicated,” said S.C. Mishra, a BSP member of the Rajya Sabha.

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