Minister Mahavir Prasad booked for murder
12 Feb 2009, 0259 hrs IST, ET Bureau

NEW DELHI: In an embarrassment to the Manmohan Singh government, Union minister Mahavir Prasad has been charged with abettment of murder of a villager in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

The Uttar Pradesh Police has registered a case against the minister for micro, small and medium industries, and two others in Gorakhpur. Mr Prasad, a Congress MP, was booked on Wednesday for his alleged involvement in the murder of Ramprakat Singh over a property dispute on January 28, 2008, a charge the minister dubbed as a “political conspiracy”.

The 70-year-old MP from Bansgaon in Gorakhpur allegedly used his influence to get a case of accident registered against the two main suspects instead of a murder case. This was challenged in the Allahabad High Court by the family of the victim. The Allahabad High Court directed the police to register a case against the minister on Tuesday night under section 120 B IPC (conspiracy), SSP Aditya Mishra told reporters on Wednesday.

Ramprakat Singh’s widow Shubhawati had accused the minister and two others — Gauri Shanker and Rajesh Singh — of killing her husband over a land dispute. She alleged that the three ran over her husband in a jeep, but an accident case was filed against Singh and Shanker. She then moved a local court in Gorakhpur to get a murder case registered against the three, including the minister. The local court rejected her plea after which she moved the Allahabad High Court.

While the minister said the allegation against him was a political conspiracy, the Congress, is taking a cautious approach. The party, for which the case is disturbing as it comes when it is in the election mode, said it will react only after examining the case. However, party spokesman and Union minister Shakeel Ahmed told a news agency that the “law will take its own course”. “The case has been registered on the instructions of the high court and it would be inappropriate to comment on the court’s order,” he said. He also said the minister has been made a co-accused in a case that was registered as an accident in the beginning and expressed the hope that the politician would come out clean.

To add to the government’s troubles, JMM chief Shibu Soren, who had to resign twice from the Union Cabinet following his conviction in a murder case, demanded Mr Prasad’s resignation. “He should definitely put in his papers,” Mr Soren told reporters when asked if the minister should quit.