The Bihar government had, earlier this week, made a significant amendment to prison rules to allow Anand Mohan, a mafia don close to the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), to walk free from prison.
Anand had been convicted of the murder of IAS officer Gopinath Krishnaiah, a Dalit, on 5 December, 1994. Anand and his band of criminals had attacked and murdered the IAS officer during the funeral of dreaded gangster Chotan Shukla, who was the brother of former Janata Dal (United) MLA Munna Shukla.
Chotan Shukla, who was an accused in many heinous crimes including murder and was close to Anand Mohan, was allegedly killed in a police encounter. Anand Mohan and his henchmen, who were at Shukla’s funeral procession, attacked and killed the young IAS to avenge Shukla’s killing.
Anand Mohan and six others, including his wife Lovely Anand, were named as accused in the murder that sent shockwaves throughout the country.
The Patna High Court convicted him and sentenced him to death in 2007. The Supreme Court commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.
Anand appealed for reduction of his sentence in 2012, but it was rejected. Anand Mohan’s son Chetan Anand is an RJD MLA and the whole family has very close ties to the RJD and its first family (Lalu Yadav and Tejaswi Yadav).
Anand Mohan contested and won two successive Lok Sabha elections from Sheohar seat in 1996 and 1998, first on a Samata Party and then on an RJD ticket.
Though he has already served his sentence (the duration of a life sentence is deemed to be 14 years), Anand Mohan could not be released due to a provision in Bihar’s Remission (Avoidance) Policy 0f 1994.
Under this policy, criminals convicted of more than one murder, and rape, dacoity, execution or preparation of terror acts and murder of a government official on duty cannot be released from prison even if they have served heir full sentence.
But the Nitish Kumar government has, through a notification on April 10, amended this policy. In a cabinet meeting, Rule 481 (i) (a) of the Bihar Prison Manual, 2012, was amended to remove the line in which the murder of a government official was included as an exception.
Now, the murder of a government official or employee posted on the job will not be counted as grounds to deny release of a convict ever after he or she has served his full sentence.
Thus, Anand Mohan can walk out of prison now. He has, anyway, been released on parole thrice over the last six months.
How Nitish Kumar was arm-twisted:
The RJD has, for the past few years, been demanding the release of Anand Mohan from prison. They had raised the issue many times in the state Assembly.
But the BJP, which was part of the government earlier, had stood firm and prevented Nitish Kumar from capitulating to the RJD’s demands. In December 2021, RJD MLAs had created ruckus in the House and staged a sit-in.
But the government had made a statement on the floor of the Assembly that Anand Mohan cannot be released since he is convicted of the murder of a government official.
But after Nitish Kumar snapped ties with the BJP and returned to the RJD-led mahagathbandhan in August last year, the RJD started mounting pressure on him to amend the prison rules to allow Andna Mohan’s early release.
Kumar was not keen on this since it would sully his sushasan babu image. But the RJD continued to mount pressure on him.
The RJD also asked its workers to greet Nitish Kumar with ‘release Anand Mohan’ slogans whenever he addressed public meetings.
In January this year, at a public rally at Patna, Nitish Kumar was greeted with Anand Mohan ko riha karo (release Anand Mohan) slogans. Kumar had to assure the vociferous supporters of Anand Mohan that he is “working on it”.
As pressure started mounting on Kumar to amend the prison rules, he (Kumar) told his close party colleagues that he was not comfortable with doing the RJD’s bidding.
But the RJD top leadership intervened strongly and told Kumar in unequivocal terms that not amending the prison rules to pave way for Anand Mohan’s release was not an option.
“He (Nitish Kumar) was asked to sign on the dotted line. He was told that the RJD would not take ‘no’ for an answer and would not allow Nitish Kumar to drag his feet on the issue,” confided an RJD MLA who is close to Lalu Yadav.
A senior RJD leader met Nitish Kumar as an emissary of Lalu Yadav earlier this month and told the chief minister that the RJD supremo wants to see Anand Mohan walk out of jail this month itself.
Deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yadav is learnt to have asked him to initiate the process of amending the prison rules about ten days ago. Nitish Kumar had to capitulate.
Why Is Anand Mohan Important
The murder convict is a Rajput and popular in his community. The RJD, and the JD(US) as well, is trying very hard to get the support of the Rajputs, who form four percent of Bihar’s electorate.
But even though they form just four percent of the electorate, the Rajputs are politically and socially powerful and they decide the electoral outcomes in many Assembly seats.
Return to jungle raj
Nitish Kumar has, expectedly, come in for intense criticism for paving the way for Anand Mohan’s release.
The opposition BJP has termed it as the beginning of the return to jungle raj. “Nitish Kumar will have to capitulate more and accept the RJD’s diktats to free criminals and turn a blind eye to criminal acts by RJD functionaries. This will lead to his downfall” said state BJP chief Samrat Choudhary.
The IAS Association of Bihar has also come under criticism for on the tweak in prison rules that will allow the convicted murderer of a young IAS officer to go free.
But former IPS officer Amitabh Kumar Das has taken up the issue. He has written to Governor Rajendranath Vishwanath Arlekar seeking the latter’s immediate intervention.
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