Making A Complete Brazen Mockery Of Rule Of Law
I am most completely astounded and hanging my head in shame and shaking it in disbelief, dejection and despair to see that this time we see a complete deafening silence on the part of many prominent Dalit organizations having their own media websites, magazines, newspapers and what not and yet hardly one gets to read the complete brazen mockery that has been made of the “rule of law” by the Bihar government by notifying the release of notorious gangster-turned-politician Anand Mohan who was serving a life sentence for killing most horrifyingly on December 5, 1994 the then District Magistrate of Gopalganj named G Krishnaiah with impeccable reputation by dragging him out of his official car and beating relentlessly along with mob and lynching him three decades ago.
Anand thus comfortably walked out of the prison on April 27, 2023 at 4 am amid strong protests by the family members and well wishers of the slain bureaucrat who are still to come terms with the most reprehensible decision which has to be condemned in the strongest parliamentary language. The Trial Court in 2007 in Patna had convicted six leaders which included Anand Mohan Singh himself, his wife Lovely Anand, Vijay Kumar Shukla, Akhlaq Ahmed, Arun Kumar, Harender Kumar and SS Thakur.
On predictable lines, the unjustified relaxation has been opposed vehemently by the wife and daughter of Krishnaiah and the IAS Officers Association of Andhra Pradesh but the Bihar State Government led by the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has cared a damn for it!
It definitely cannot be glossed over lightly ever by anyone that none other than even the Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association itself has also expressed its deepest dismay at the Bihar government for its most arbitrary and most whimsical decision to release Anand Mohan Singh and other convicts who were serving a life sentence for the most ghastly murder of the late IAS officer G Krishnaaiah. While fervently urging the government to “reconsider” the decision, the top IAS body said that the release of a convicted killer is “tantamount to the denial of justice”.
It must be mentioned here that Anand who was an MP prior to his being convicted in 2007 was released from Saharsa jail in Bihar after being behind the bars for 15 years! This premature release has raised serious question marks on the validity of the time tested dictums that, “Be you ever so high, the law is above you” and “As you sow so shall you reap”! A petition has been filed in the Patna High Court challenging the amendment to prison rules that facilitated the release of Mohan.
It must be mentioned here that Anand Mohan who walked out of the jail at 4 am on April 27, 2023 has the dubious record of being the first Indian politician to be sentenced to death. No doubt, he is a very powerful musclemen politician hailing from the Rajput community and grabbed the centrestage after protesting vehemently against the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai. The wife of slain DM named Uma Devi has appealed to the President and the PM to interfere in the matter but we don’t see any response forthcoming till the time of writing this piece.
As it turned out, news agency ANI quoted her saying that, “It’s disheartening for us that he has been released from jail. The government should reconsider this decision. I request Nitish Kumarji to give a second thought to this decision.” But political leaders are bothered only about their short term and long term political gains only and that’s all! For them it just does not matter what impact it will have on the slain’s family and how they can be again subjected to harassment, humiliation and harangue!
Needless to say, this is most shocking and most baffling indeed and one feels most aghast about it just like was the case when the killers and gang rape convict in Bilkis Bano gang rape were released prematurely by the Gujarat state government which obviously too did not go down well with the legal community and so also with the human rights activists, intellectuals and common person! The Bihar government notified the release of 27 prisoners including former MP Anand Mohan days after the Nitish Kumar led dispensation amended the Bihar Prison Manual 2012 with the Chief Secretary Amir Subhani saying that the release was based on “legal provisions” which has raised some very credible and serious question marks about the real intent behind this! It must be recalled that on April 10, 2023, the Bihar’s Home Department had notified the change in the Rule 481(I-a) of the Bihar Prison Manual, 2012 on the remission of sentences by deleting the phrase “or murder of a government servant on duty”.
Interestingly enough, it must be noted that the phrase as mentioned above was added in 2012 by none other than the Nitish Kumar-led government. Now it is an RJD-led coalition government that has now removed it and Chief Minister now also is again Nitish Kumar! Lady Lawyer Alka Verma who has most courageously filed the PIL in the Patna High Court has termed the huge change in rules facilitating Anand Mohan’s sudden release as “arbitrary and unfair”. She said that, “The amendment is not in good faith because it is arbitrary and its usefulness is not understandable. If we try to understand its use, it means that you have benefitted the criminals. The amendment should be for the people’s good. It is not for the good of the people. The government did not even consult the public servants. This is an arbitrary action. The amendment is arbitrary and unreasonable. I expect the inference of the court on this ground. I filed the plea yesterday.”
While reacting to the development, senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP and former Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi slammed the premature release and said that, “The government has changed a clause in the prison manual to set free a person who was held guilty by the Supreme Court, while it has no sensitivity to set free innocent poor, Dalits and extremely backward class languishing in jail under the failed prohibition law.” This is indeed most disgusting! Justice must not only be done but also must be seen to be done!
To be sure, it must be noted that without the change that has been made, anyone sentenced for the murder of a “government servant on duty” was not eligible for remission. Mohan’s name is on the 11th place in the list of 27 names. His son and Rashtriya Janata Dal legislator Chetan Anand’s wedding is scheduled on May 3. Rashtriya Janata Dal is in the ruling alliance in Bihar with Nitish as Chief Minister and that is what makes the events more murkier and depicts that there is more to it than meets the eye.
It may be recalled that on October 3, 2007, a Trial Court had sentenced Anand Mohan and three others to death and some got life and 29 acquitted for the 1994 lynching of Gopalganj DM G Krishnaiah who was a 1985-batch IAS officer from Mahbubnagar which is in present day Telangana who was lynched most brutally by a mob led by Anand on December 5, 1994 in Muzaffarpur when his vehicle tried to overtake a funeral procession. It may be also recalled that the Patna High Court in 2008 on December 10 had later commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment and the High Court decision was endorsed by the Apex Court also on July 10, 2012. Anand Mohan who was the sitting MLA from Mahishi was leading the procession taken out upon the death of his close associate Chhotan Shukla who was another dreaded gangster who fell prey to the bullets of his rivals gangsters before realizing his political ambitions. It must be also disclosed here that Anand had challenged this also in the Supreme Court but much to his dismay, he got no relief as the Apex Court did not find any merit in his case.
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, it must be mentioned here that in an enlightening editorial published in the Hindustan Times dated April 28, 2023, it is very rightly pointed out that, “Bihar’s decision to release convicted gangster Anand Mohan Singh from jail has birthed an awkward situation only made possible by the shifting tides of electoral politics – an administration avowedly committed to social justice and upliftment of marginalized groups granting remission to an upper-caste criminal serving a life term for the grisly murder of a young Dalit bureaucrat. Mr Singh still retains considerable political influence, especially among his Rajput community, and will no doubt prove electorally useful in the 2024 general elections, and the state poll scheduled the year after. But the choice to tweak regulations to enable his release may end up hurting Nitish Kumar’s carefully crafted image of being a good administrator and signal the return of baahubali (strongman) politics to the state.
Mr Singh was serving a life term for the murder of district magistrate G Krishnaiah, who was lynched in 1994. Before the Patna High Court and the Supreme Court, Bihar pushed for the maximum sentence. It must explain what changed between then and April 10, when the authorities removed the “murderer of a government servant on duty” category from the category of crimes that rendered prisoners ineligible for remission.
The government has refuted Opposition allegations that the motive behind the decision was purely political. But the development further cements the perception that obscure rules are being weaponised unethically by governments of all ideological shades for political expediency. Whether it be the controversial release of the men who raped Bilkis Bano or the gangster who killed a young officer to send a message, such incidents subvert the rule of law and erode due process. Politicians must reconsider such tactics.”
It is also very rightly pointed out in the editorial of the Times of India newspaper dated April 27, 2023 titled “Remission Impossible” that, “Little can be more brazen, or cynical, than to alter prison rules to facilitate the release of a murder convict for political reasons. But that is exactly what Nitish Kumar’s JDU government in Bihar did earlier in April when it amended the Bihar Prison Manual 2012 to remove the phrase “the murder of a public sertvant”. The existing rule disallowed remission of convicts of terrorism, rape-cum-murder and murder of state officers. Within a fortnight of the change, former RJD MLA Anand Mohan was set to be freed from prison, purportedly to re-enter the electoral arena ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. His political influence is expected to pull in some of Bihar’s approximately 6-7% Rajput vote. It is also seemingly why the opposition in Bihar spoke with a forked tongue criticizing the change in rule yet not criticizing Mohan’s release. Politicians flouting due process is not new. But it’s something worse entirely when the executive appears to arrogate to itself the right to lay waste criminal justice procedure – Bihar government is unmoved by the criticism over Mohan’s release. GoI and Gujarat government have told SC they may challenge the court’s order to share the Bilkis Bano filed. Remission, fairly applied, is a chance at a second life. But, and this is as distressing as it is unsurprising, governments are rarely concerned over remissions for politically irrelevant convicts.”
All told, this is what truly constitutes the nub of the problem! Politicians are always thoroughly expert in making a complete mockery of the due process of law and in always ensuring astoundingly that they are the real wielders of power with Apex Court too daring to speak up on Chief Election Commissioner appointment process but opting to maintain a deafening silence on such a most serious pressing issue like this thereby directly sending the loud and clear signal that, “Courts and laws are entirely subjected to the mercy and at the whims and fancies of politicians who can subvert them as they like in whatever manner they like and at whatever time they want to play with it to further their own vested political interests as we see so very shockingly in this leading case also! Of course, the unpalatable truth is that Nitish Kumar definitely deserves to face the flak for subverting the due process of law most brazenly just to ensure that a powerful politician convicted to life term in prison for killing along with a mob a government servant who was an IAS officer and while on duty is set free on one pretext or the other! No denying it!