Shahabuddin’s plea for more time to prepare defence rejected

New Delhi: Witnesses in cases controversial RJD leader Shahabuddin has been facing have been “bumped off”, the Supreme Court said today, rejecting his claim of facing “media trial” in a murder case and his vehement plea for more time to prepare for his defence.

Shahabuddin’s claim did not cut much ice with the apex court which asked him to be ready on Wednesday to justify why his bail should not be revoked.

“Since there are allegations and counter allegations being made in the case, we do not intend to further adjourn the matter. Many witnesses have been bumped off.

“We have to strike a balance by hearing both parties,” a bench of Justices P C Ghose and Amitava Roy said when the counsel for the RJD strongman sought a week’s time to go through the voluminous records and brief noted senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani, who is to argue the case for Shahabuddin.

The bench, which adjourned the hearing till September 28, denied further time by acceding to the plea of lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing Chandrakeshwar Prasad who lost his three sons in two separate crimes, that the man in question was a threat to other remaining witnesses.

Rebutting this strongly, senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who appeared for Shahabuddin, alleged that his client was facing “media trial” and lawyers like Bhushan were behaving like sole custodians of public morality.

“They are the self proclaimed custodian of public morality. Today, I am being tried by the media,” he said while referring to some remarks made on social networking sites by Bhushan and submitted that they are “very disturbing”.

“Everyday, this man is posing threat to the society. Look at the chart (of cases against Shahabuddin). He has been convicted in 10 cases. 45 criminal cases are pending against him. Life imprisonment has been awarded in two cases,” Bhushan replied adding that if the hearing was being adjourned, then the High Court order granting him bail be stayed.

The submission found favour from the Nitish Kumar-led government in Bihar, in which RJD is a crucial partner.
“It is a matter of extreme urgency. There is only one eye witness in the case, that is the elderly father whose three sons have been killed and if anything happens to him (Chandrakeshwar Prasad) then both the cases will collapse,” the state government counsel told the bench.

Irked over the submission, the bench questioned the delay on part of state government in challenging the HC order saying “we know what urgency you have shown in the matter”.