PATNA: Former Rashtriya Janata Dal MP Prabhunath Singh, a close aide of party chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, was on Tuesday sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his political rival, sitting MLA Ashok Singh, 22 years ago.
The criminal-turned-politician’s brother Dinanath Singh and their nephew, former panchayat head Ritesh Singh, were also sentenced to life imprisonment by the additional district and sessions judge of Hazaribagh, Surendra Sharma, who had convicted the trio five days ago.
The court also sentenced the trio to ten years of rigorous imprisonment for possessing and using explosives, said additional public prosecutor Uday Singh. The trio, who are currently lodged in Hazaribagh’s Jayaprakash Narayan Central Jail, will also have to pay a fine of Rs 40,000 each. They were sent to jail immediately after their conviction on May 18.
The sentence was pronounced in a crowded court room where security was beefed up for fear of disturbances by supporters of the former MP, who had gathered on the court premises. The three convicted men heard the quantum of punishment through video conferencing in jail.
The life term for Singh, who remains an influential upper-caste Rajput leader despite his criminal background, is seen as yet another blow to Lalu Prasad Yadav after the recent Supreme Court verdict on fodder scam cases and the raids by the Income Tax department.
Singh, who was a three-term MP from chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and a one-time MP from RJD, was considered a top political advisor for Yadav’s two minister sons – deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav and health minister Tej Pratap Yadav.
Ashok Singh, a newly-elected MLA of Janata Dal from Masrakh constituency in Saran district, was killed in a bomb blast at his official residence in Patna on July 3, 1995. Ashok Singh had assaulted Prabhunath Singh and the latter had threatened to eliminate him within 90 days of the poll victory.
Chandni Devi, Ashok Singh’s widow, said, “Justice has finally been delivered 22 years later, but I would have been happier if Prabhunath Singh got the death sentence. It took so long because he (Prabhunath) used all his influence and links to evade progress in the trial. His men also threatened me several times. He would have gone free if this case were tried in a Bihar court.”
The Supreme Court had transferred the case to the Hazaribagh court in 1997 to ensure free and fair trial.
Kedarnath Singh, Prabhunath’s brother, dismissed the conviction and said an appeal against it would soon be made in Patna High Court.