15 yrs on, HC acquits Pappu Yadav in MLA murder case

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 PATNA: Fifteen years after the murder of Ajit Sarkar, CPM MLA from Purnia, the Patna high court on Friday acquitted former Purnia MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, former MLA Rajan Tiwari and Anil Yadav of the charge of murder, giving them benefit of doubt.

Sarkar was shot by motorcycle-borne criminals when he was in his car in Khazanchihat in Purnia town on June 14, 1998. Pappu, then an RJD MP and known political rival of Sarkar, was arrested in 1999, and is currently lodged in the Beur Central Jail.

A division bench comprising Justice V N Sinha and Justice A K Lal set aside the judgment of a special CBI court which had awarded them life sentence on February 14, 2008. While allowing the criminal appeals filed by the trio, the division bench held the circumstantial evidence gathered by the CBI against Pappu, Rajan and Anil was not strong enough on which their conviction could be based.

After an FIR was lodged in the Khazanchihat police station, the case was handed over to the CBI. The investigating agency filed the chargesheet, maintaining Pappu hatched a conspiracy to get Sarkar killed by shooter Rajan. The chargesheet further said Anil was driving the motorcycle and Rajan was riding the pillion when he shot Sarkar.

The circumstantial evidence collected by the CBI was that after the murder, Rajan reached Katihar and talked to Pappu on phone. The CBI also produced three prosecution witnesses in the trial court.

The trio’s defence was that Sarkar’s bodyguard, Ramesh Oraon, who was sitting with Sarkar in the car when the murder took place, had not seen the prosecution witnesses.

The division bench had reserved the judgment on the three criminal appeals on February 26 this year. On Friday, it delivered the 273-page judgment.

CBI counsel Bipin Kumar Sinha said after studying the judgment, the investigating agency might move the Supreme Court and challenge the verdict of the division bench. He said Rajan had confessed in his statement before a magistrate that Pappu had hatched the plot to kill Sarkar.

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