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SC sets aside Patna HC order granting bail to accused in trader's murder case

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New Delhi, Aug 30: The Supreme Court has set aside an order of the Patna High Court granting bail to an alleged habitual offender accused of gunning down the head of a traders' association in Bihar's Bihta in 2017, saying the criminal antecedents of the accused should have been considered.

SC sets aside Patna HC order granting bail to accused in traders murder case

Nirbhay Singh, the president of the Bihta Traders' Association and owner of the "Uday Chitra Mandir" cinema hall, was shot dead on September 15, 2017 allegedly by three assailants, including one Amit Kumar, accused of running an extortion racket at the local market.

A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao, during a hearing conducted through video-conferencing, took note of the plea moved by Ajay Kumar, the victim's brother, and said the high court did not take into account the fact that the prime accused, Amit Kumar, was a habitual offender facing several criminal cases and moreover, the murder trial in the present case was at the fag end.

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"Taking into account the criminal antecedents of Respondent No.1 (Amit) and the fact that he has committed an offence after he was released on bail, we are of the considered view that the High Court should not have released Respondent No.1 on bail. The judgment of the High Court is set aside. The appeal is allowed accordingly," the bench, which also comprised justices Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat, said.

Usually, higher courts do not cancel the bail granted to an accused in a criminal case unless a grave fact, which could be detrimental to a fair trial, about the accused is brought to their notice. Lawyer Smarhar Singh, appearing for Ajay Kumar, submitted that the key accused, a habitual offender, was involved in a number of criminal cases.

"However, the high court, without considering the submissions made regarding the criminal antecedents of Respondent No.1, granted bail to him on the ground that he has been in custody since March 28, 2018 and also taking into account the present COVID condition," he said.

The counsel for the Bihar government also submitted that even after his release on bail, the accused committed a criminal offence of extortion. The victim's brother had filed an appeal in the top court against the high court order granting bail to the accused.

The high court has also granted bail to nine other accused in the case. Separate appeals were also filed by the victim's family, challenging the bail granted by the high court on May 1, 2019 to two other accused -- Mohammad Shabir and Shankar Choudhary -- in the case. Subsequently, the Bihar government informed the top court that Shabir's bail was cancelled. Ajay Kumar said the trial in his brother's murder case was at the fag end before a trial court in Bihar.

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