The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the criminal proceedings against former Bhatatiya Janata Party minister Rajendra Singh Rathore in connection with the killing of Rajasthan liquor smuggler Dara Singh in an alleged fake encounter in 2006.
The apex court issued notice and sought response of the Central Bureau of Investigation on a petition filed by Rathore challenging the Rajasthan high court's order which had set aside the trial court's decision to discharge him from the case.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir posted the matter for hearing on November 27 and said 'till then the criminal proceedings would remain stayed'.
While admitting the appeal of former Rajasthan minister and BJP chief whip in the state assembly, the bench, also comprising justices S S Nijjar and J Chelameswar, said it would decide upon the question of law whether charges can be framed against an accused only on the ground of suspicion.
"This matter only involves question of law," the bench said after Rathore's counsel Ram Jethmalani and Additiona Solicitor General Haren Raval, who appeared for the CBI, traded charges against each other.
While Jethmalani contended that the case against Rathore was politically motivated, Raval said his chargesheeting in the case was based on evidence.
Jethmalani said the high court's single-judge bench order that charges can be framed on suspicion was perverse. He said that the CBI proceeded with the case against Rathore even after Attorney General G E Vahanvati opined that there was no prima-facie evidence against him and the sessions court also discharged him on the same ground.
Raval, however, argued that the evidence which would lead to presumption can be a sufficient ground for framing charges against the accused and the CBI has such evidence against him.
The high court on October 26 had directed Rathore to surrender before the trial and face trial in the case. The CBI has filed two charge sheets in the case naming 16 person as accused in the first one, while Rathore was named as the 17th accused in the second one.
Accused Rathore of being the main conspirator, the CBI has said there are evidence against him in form of telephonic conversations between him and a police officer, who is also one of the accused in the case.
Jethmalani, however, said those conversations cannot be considered as evidence against Rathore as those were made between October 4 to 19 in 2006, much before the killing of
Dara Singh when the liquor smuggler was absconding.
The CBI chargesheet has alleged that Dara Singh was detained illegally by state's special operations group officials, who took him to an isolated place near Amber and killed him on October 23, 2006.
Rathore, who was the state's parliamentary affairs minister at the time of the incident, was arrested on April 5 this year for his alleged role in the case. He was later given bail on May 31 by the high court.