The Supreme Court has permitted former Lok Sabha MP from Bihar Prabhunath Singh to appear before it virtually through video conferencing it on September 1 when it will hear arguments on the quantum of sentence to be handed down to him in a 1995 double murder case.
The top court had on August 18 set aside the verdicts of the trial court and the Patna High Court acquitting Singh, a multiple-term former MP from Bihar’s Maharajganj, in the murder case. Singh represented Maharajganj both as JD(U) and RJD MP.
A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Abhay S Oka and Vikram Nath, while convicting the former lawmaker, had ordered him to appear physically before it on September 1 when it will hear arguments on the sentence which may range from life imprisonment to the death penalty.
Singh moved an application seeking permission to appear virtually during the hearing.
“Taken on Board. The applicant/respondent No. 2 (Singh) is permitted to appear virtually through video conferencing on September 01, 2023 for hearing on question of sentence, instead of the physical appearance, as directed vide judgment dated August 18, 2023. Application is allowed accordingly,” the bench headed by Justice Kaul ordered on Friday.
The top court, in its judgment, had said it was dealing with a case which was an “exceptionally painful episode of our criminal justice system” and convicted Singh in the case, overturning the orders of the trial court and the Patna High Court acquitting him.
It also observed there was not even an iota of doubt that Singh was instrumental in making all possible efforts to “wipe out” the evidence against him. It said the prosecution machinery, as also the presiding officer of the trial court, were used as a tool of his “highhandedness”.
The case involved the killing of two people on the day of polling for assembly elections in Chapra in Saran district in March 1995. Singh was then contesting election as a candidate of the Bihar People’s Party.
The court delivered its verdict on an appeal challenging the December 2021 judgement of the Patna High Court which had dismissed a revision petition and confirmed the trial court order acquitting Singh in the case.
It directed the Secretary, Department of Home, Bihar and the Director General of Police of the state to ensure that Singh is taken into custody forthwith and produced before the apex court to be heard on the question of sentence.
“Let the matter be listed again on September 1, 2023. On the said date, accused Prabhunath Singh (respondent no. 2) be produced before this court in custody for the aforesaid purpose,” it had said.
The apex court did not disturb the acquittal of other accused in the case, saying their names were not reflected either in the dying declaration of Rajendra Rai or in the statement of his mother, who was a court witness.
Singh is currently lodged in Hazaribagh jail in Jharkhand after his conviction in the murder of Janata Dal MLA Ashok Singh at the latter’s official residence in the high-security zone in Patna in 1995.