The Supreme Court on Friday sentenced Rashtriya Janata Dal leader and former MP Prabhunath Singh to life imprisonment in a 1995 double murder case, Live Law reported.
A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, AS Oka, and Vikram Nath also directed Singh and the Bihar government to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation each and separately to the families of those who died, and Rs 5 lakh each to a woman who was injured in the incident.
On August 18, the Supreme Court convicted Singh for murdering two men named Rajendra Rai and Daroga Rai, and injuring Rajendra Rai’s mother Lalmuni Devi in 1995. Singh, who was then contesting Assembly elections as a Bihar People’s Party candidate, shot them when they said they had voted for another political party.
The trial court and Patna High Court had acquitted Singh in the case, but the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal.
On Friday, Justice Kaul noted that the only two sentencing options open before the court were life imprisonment or the death sentence, according to Live Law. To this, Senior Advocate R Basant – representing Singh – said that as per a Supreme Court verdict from 1980, the graver sentence should only be chosen when the lesser option is unquestionably foreclosed.
The court then awarded the sentence of life imprisonment to the former MP. Justice Nath orally remarked that he had “never seen such a case before”.
The Supreme Court, in its judgement from August 18 convicting Singh, had said that the trial took place in the “most shabby” manner.
“Both the courts [trial court and High Court] completely shut their eyes to the manner of the investigation, the prosecutor’s role, and the high-handedness of the accused as also the conduct of the presiding officer of the trial court,” said the Supreme Court.
The court had said that Singh had done everything he could to destroy the evidence against him. It remarked that the murders and what transpired afterwards represented an “exceptionally painful episode of our criminal justice system”.
In 2000, the Patna High Court had transferred the case from Chhapra after family members of the victims alleged that witnesses were being threatened and influenced. In December 2008, a Patna court acquitted Singh citing lack of evidence, a decision that was upheld by the High Court in 2012. Rai’s brother challenged the acquittal in the Supreme Court.