NO DEATH SENTENCE ON SPECULATIVE EVIDENCE: ORISSA HIGH COURT

OM Bureau

Cuttack:

“There is absolutely no evidence on record that due to individual act of Dara alone, the three deceased persons or any of them died”. Thus saying, the Orissa High Court set aside on May 19 the death sentence awarded to Rabindra Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh by the trial court and commuted it to life imprisonment in the triple murder case instituted on alleged murder of Christian missionary from Australia Graham Stuart Staines and his two sons Philip and Timothy in the night of January 22, 1999 at Manoharpur of Keonjhar, Orissa.

Holding that “Dara Singh as the ambassador of death deserves death”, the Trial Court had sentenced him to death u/s.302 I.P.C, for which he was separately charged and directed that “he be hanged by the neck till he is dead”.

Besides Dara Singh, there were 12 other convicts facing prosecution over the triple murder. But, they being “gullible Adivasis”, the Judge had declared that they “deserve justice tempered with mercy” and therefore had awarded them with punishment of imprisonment only.

In total disapproval of this award, the High Court observed that, “Evidence against the accused including Dara being of identical nature, they are all equally responsible for the triple murder. No justification is available from the evidence on record to single out Dara Singh for convicting him under section 302 of IPC”

“Considering the various rulings of the Supreme Court and the facts and circumstances of the case in which the crime was committed and part played by the convicts”, the Trial judge had said, “I sentence each of the convict to imprisonment for life under Section 120(B), I.P.C.” Setting aside this sentence, the High Court Bench comprising Chief Justice Sujit Barman Roy and Justice Laxmikanta Mohapatra pronounced, “We are sorry to say that the nature of evidence is absolutely weak and on the basis of such speculative evidence, it is not possible to hold any of the accused guilty for criminal conspiracy under section 120(B) of Indian Penal Code. Therefore, the conviction and sentences of the appellants under section 120(B) IPC cannot be sustained and must be quashed”.

Delivering the 110 page judgment in a packed courtroom, the bench acquitted Dayanidhi Patra, Umakanta Bhoi, Kartik Lohar, Rabi Soren, Mahadev Mahanta, Thuram Ho, Renta hembram, Suresh hansda, Surath Nayak, Harischandra Mahanta and Rajat Kumar Das. However, life imprisonment sentenced to Mahendra hembram was upheld on basis of his confession. Dara Singh, in whose respect the Court observed that he “cannot be held individually liable for the triple murder”, was adjudged “liable vicariously along with others by invoking section 149 of IPC”. But, the Court announced, “We cannot accept the investigation to be an impartial one”. Justifying this observation, the Court specifically referred to confessional statement of one Umakanta Bhoi, convicted by the Trial Court. “There are circumstances”, the Court pointed out, “to show that confessional statements of Umakanta Bhoi must have been secured by coercion, duress and threat”.

Death sentence, though, thus commuted to life imprisonment, Dara Singh has told the media that he shall prefer an appeal in the Supreme Court seeking acquittal as well as a judicial determination that he had not committed the crime.

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