‘State Assisted Accused, Failed To Prosecute Fairly’: Supreme Court Directs Bihar Govt To Compensate Victims In 1995 Double Murder Case


Last week, the Supreme Court sentenced former Member of Parliament (MP) and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Prabhunath Singh to life imprisonment in the double murder case of 1995. While pronouncing the sentence, the Apex Court also directed compensation of Rupees 10 lakh each for both the deceased and Rs 5 lakhs each for the injured in the incident, to be paid by the Bihar Government and the convict separately. The Court also imposed a sentence of seven years imprisonment on Singh for the offence of attempt to murder under Section 307 IPC.

The fine has been awarded of the magnitude referred to above considering the shocking facts and circumstances of the case” A bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Vikram Nath said in the order pronouncing his sentence.

In a rare move, the Court directed the Bihar Government to pay compensation to the legal heirs of the deceased and the injured, as it was of the view that the State had failed to prosecute the case fairly and had in fact assisted the accused. The compensation was directed in terms of Section 357 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 which allows payment of compensation for any loss or injury caused by the offence.

“Considering the conduct of the State as noticed in the judgment dated August 18, 2023 and also the amount of trauma and harassment faced by the victim’s family, we are of the view that in addition to the damages awarded under section 357 CrPC further compensation be awarded under section 357-A CrPC. The State of Bihar will compensate the legal heirs of the two deceased and the injured if alive otherwise her legal heirs in the like amount of the fine awarded above i.e. Rs.10 lacs each to the legal heirs of the deceased Rajendra Rai and Daroga Rai and Rs.5 lacs to the injured Smt. Devi or her legal heirs, as the case may be.” The Apex Court directed while sentencing the accused.

On 18th August, the Court had convicted Singh in the double murder case of 1995, reversing his acquittal granted by the trial court and confirmed by the Patna High Court. Singh, who was contesting elections as a candidate of the Bihar People’s Party (BPP) then, was accused of murdering two persons near a polling booth in Chhapra in March 1995 for not voting as per his suggestion.

In a strongly worded judgment, the Supreme Court called the trial “shabby” and the investigation “tainted”, which showed the “highhandedness of the accused-Respondent no.2, who was a powerful person, being a sitting M.P. of the Ruling Party”.

The Apex Court in its judgement listed out several lapses on the part of the prosecution and the Investigating Agency and called the case “an exceptionally painful episode of our Criminal Justice System.”

The Apex Court noted that the three main stakeholders in the criminal trial, i.e, the Investigating Officer, part of the police of the State of Bihar, the Public Prosecutor, and the Judiciary, all failed to perform their respective duties and responsibilities.

The Apex Court observed that the conduct of the Public Prosecutor in the case made it clear that he was acting in the interest of the accused, which the courts below failed to notice. In this context, the Court stressed on the duty owed by the Prosecutor to the state, the accused and the court and stated that they are not representatives of any party.

Section 357 (1) (a) of the CrPC provides that whenever fine is imposed as a sentence, the Court may direct the same wholly or in part to be applied for defraying the expenses incurred in the prosecution. However, in this case, the Court categorically stated that it is not directing such recovery of expense, since the prosecution aided the accused:

We are not inclined to grant any such expenses to the State considering the fact that the State in fact did not prosecute the case fairly, rather throughout assisted the accused.” the Apex Court said while pronouncing the sentence.

The Court also said that it was not imposing death sentence on Singh considering that the incident occurred in 1995 and 28 years have already passed since then.

Case Title: Harendra Rai V. State of Bihar, Criminal Appeal No.1726 of 2015

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