HC grants conditional custody parole to ex-RJD leader Mohd Shahabuddin

New Delhi:
The Delhi High Court has granted custody parole for three days to jailed former MP Mohd Shahabuddin, who is lodged in Tihar Jail and serving life term in a murder case, to meet his family in the national capital, noting that the police departments of Bihar and Delhi are in unison that they cannot assure his safety in Siwan.

The former Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) parliamentarian, a convict and an undertrial, was shifted to Tihar jail in 2018 by the Supreme Court from Siwan jail in Bihar.

He had prayed for granting custody parole to visit Siwan to meet his family on account of his father’s death.

Justice A J Bhambhani, who said this is not an ordinary case, noted the police departments of both Bihar and Delhi are saying in unison that they cannot assure Shahabuddin’s custody and safety and alternatively, they are saying that they would need to deploy inordinately vast resources if his custody and safety is to be ensured.

Rare is it to come-upon a case where State Governments are unsure and dithering to make a commitment that they can ensure the custody of a prisoner. This however, is definitely such a case, the high court said.

It also referred to the Supreme Court’s previous orders which had recorded that the State of Bihar had said in a counter-affidavit that Shahabuddin controls a private army, and that he has been accused of being involved in murder cases even while he was in judicial custody.

Shahabuddin has sought custody parole to go to Siwan on the ground that his father passed away on September 19 and he wishes to spend time with his grieving mother, who is unwell, and family members and to offer prayers at the grave of his late father.

The high court granted custody parole to Shahabuddin for a period of six hours at a time on any three days of his choice, whether consecutive or otherwise, within 30 days from the date of the order, which was passed on Wednesday.

On each of these three days, the petitioner (Shahabuddin) would be taken in custody’ with adequate police security and protection, to a single address of his choice to be indicated by him in writing to the Jail Superintendent in advance, but only within the State of Delhi; which address and location would be verified and secured appropriately by the State, it said.

It said during the custody parole, he shall be free to meet only his mother, wife and any other blood relatives and afforded sufficient privacy to interact with such persons.

The high court made it clear that Shahabuddin shall not be entitled to the presence of his personal guards.

The court said it has given its painful consideration to the prayers made in the petition and is of the opinion that a very strict balancing is required between the humane considerations for grant of custody parole and the overarching considerations of ensuring judicial custody of the prisoner, his own safety and the safety of others and ensuring that there is no subversion of the legal process.

After all, the Supreme Court has in exercise of its extraordinary judicial powers, transferred the petitioner to Delhi to undergo sentence as well as trials outside the State of Bihar for compelling considerations. It is evident that the very presence of the petitioner within the State of Bihar was perceived by the Supreme Court as a grave threat and interference in the course of justice.

Yet, in an effort to balance competing interests and rights, as propounded by the Supreme Court, this court would not completely negate the petitioner’s plea for custody parole in the backdrop of the recent bereavement he has suffered

it said.

Earlier, Delhi government counsel had said the state cannot be held responsible for safety and security of the prisoner in Bihar.

He had said it will be difficult to take him to Bihar as a full police battalion is required to go with him and also due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The Bihar government’s affidavit said if the custody, safety and security of Shahabuddin is to be ensured within Bihar, it would require huge police force, besides the security personnel who would ensure his safety during transportation within Delhi.

Shahabuddin was declared a history-sheeter Type A, or one who is beyond reform and has been a member of the legislative assembly on two occasions and a member of Parliament four times.

The apex court on February 15, 2018 had ordered shifting of Shahabuddin, now facing trial in over three dozen criminal cases, from Siwan Jail to Tihar.

The top court’s order had come on a plea filed by Asha Ranjan, the widow of slain Siwan-based journalist Rajdeo Ranjan, and Chandrakeshwar Prasad, whose three sons were killed in separate incidents by the gangster.

It had on October 30, last year upheld the conviction and sentence of Shahabuddin and three others in a 2004 double murder case in which two brothers were killed for not paying extortion money.

Satish and Girish Roshan were murdered in August 2004 in Siwan for refusing to pay extortion money.

A third brother, Rajiv Roshan, who was an eyewitness to the incident in which Shahabuddin’s men allegedly threw acid to kill the two brothers, was shot dead on June 6, 2014.

Roshan was killed when he was going to depose against Shahabuddin in the trial court despite threats from the don and his henchmen.

On December 9, 2015, a special judge at Siwan had convicted Shahabuddin and his associates for the murders and sentenced them to life imprisonment.

On August 30, 2018, the Patna High Court had upheld their conviction and sentence.