The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Convicted for kidnap, not murder

Patna, May 8: The long arm of law has finally chained RJD MP Md Shahabuddin firmly within its grip after the Siwan court sentenced him to life imprisonment in the case of kidnapping a CPI(ML) worker eight years ago.

Amid tight security around the special court set up in Siwan prison, additional district and sessions judge Gyaneshwar Prasad Shrivastav also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on the MP giving him a month’s time to appeal against the sentence.

On May 5, the judge had found Shahabuddin guilty under Section 364 (abduction for murder) of the Indian Penal Code in a case related to the kidnapping of Chhotelal Gupta on February 7, 1999.

The court also convicted Shahabuddin last month for two years for carrying out armed raids on the CPI(ML) office in 1998.

According to eyewitness Sital Paswan, who deposed before the court, Shahabuddin called Chhotelal near the Andar railway crossing on the outskirts of Siwan and got him to board the MP’s Scorpio.

“After that, the car proceeded towards Pratappur (Shahabuddin’s ancestral village). Nobody has seen Chhotelal since then,” Paswan, who accompanied Chhotelal during the abduction, said. Sital and Chhotelal, both residents of Assaon village in Siwan, were on their way to Siwan when the MP drove away with Chhotelal.

Though Chhotelal’s father Dinanath Gupta deposed in the court as a prosecution witness as well, it was Sital’s deposition that sealed the fate for the “don”, who was known as a “law onto himself” in Siwan. Shahabuddin was the only named accused in the FIR as others accompanying him were not identified then and the prosecution failed to prove that the victim was murdered after his body could never be traced.

Prosecution lawyer Rambilas Mahto pleaded that, according to the law, a kidnapped person should be treated as “murdered” if he is not seen in seven years after his abduction. However, the court did not accept it as a case of murder.

Reacting on the verdict, Shahabuddin said he would move the high court against the order. His lawyer Zulfikar Ali, too, said he would move the higher court soon against the order “which is not based on facts” after the court refused to entertain Ali’s plea that Sital Paswan was a “fake witness”.

Shahabuddin’s aide and RJD leader Ajay Kumar described the entire proceedings against Shahabuddin as “politically motivated”. A rival government has been “selectively targeting” RJD’s popular and powerful leaders, he added.

The CPI(ML), with whom Shahabuddin has been engaged in a war for over a decade, described the verdict as a result of the party’s “sustained struggle on the popular and legal front” against a “dreaded gangster in politics”.

Party state secretary Nandkishore alleged: “Shahabuddin has so far murdered 18 party workers, including former JNU students’ union leader Chandra Shekhar”.

The party today launched a movement for Shahabuddin prosecution in other cases related to the murder of the CPI(ML) workers, which will culminate with a demonstration near the Lok Sabha on May 16. CPI(ML) activists have also demanded the MP’s expulsion from the Lok Sabha.

Shahabuddin who has never been defeated in any of the polls he has contested in Siwan since 1990 may not be able to contest the polls after his conviction.

“According to section 8 (3) of the Representative of Peoples Act, 1951, a person is disqualified from contesting the elections if convicted for two years or more,” said a senior Patna High Court lawyer.

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