New Delhi: Lok Janshakti Party on Thursday demanded a high-level probe into the "lapses" on the part of the Bihar government that led to the acquittal of all the accused in the Laxmanpur Bathe massacre case in the state.
Patna High Court yesterday set aside the conviction of 26 persons, including 16 who were awarded death sentences by a lower court, in the massacre case of 58 Dalits 16 years back on December 1, 1997, at Laxmanpur Bathe village in Bihar`s Jehanabad district.
Acqutting all the convicts of all charges citing a lack of evidence, the bench directed their immediate release. "There must have been some slackness on part of the state government in failing to produce strong witnesses in the case. Otherwise, how could the accused get relief in a higher court after they were convicted by a lower court," LJP chief Ramvilas Paswan said here.
"Fifty-eight people, mostly mahadalits, were massacred in Bihar in 1997. A lower court convicted the accused, but all of them were set free by the higher court due to a lack of strong witnesses," Paswan said, adding that the matter was "shocking".
"The state government has a role to find the killers and punish them," he said. "I appeal to all political parties to raise the issue. I spoke to (UPA Chairperson) Sonia Gandhi`s secretary about it and sought time as we want a high-level probe into the lapses in the case.
"The government should go to Supreme Court. If need be, (the case) can be probed by CBI also," he said.
Attacking the Bihar government, he said, "This is a slap on the face of the state government as it could not produce strong witnesses in the case."
Listing similar instances in the past, he said, "11 people were killed on July 11, 1996, in Bathani Tola in Bihar. The lower court gave death sentences to three accused and 20 were sentenced to life terms in May 2010. However, all were set free by a higher court in April 2012."
The same happened in connection with the Nagri incident which saw 10 persons being killed in November 1998. "The accused were convicted by a lower court but their sentencing was set aside by Patna High Court," he said.
"In all these cases, High Court said witnesses were not produced in a proper way and were not strong," he added.
Taking a dig at Bihar CM Nitish Kumar over his wooing of the mahadalits, Paswan said, "Nitish has always tried to get mahadalit votes. Mahadalits are involved in a majority of these cases. But the accused were set free due to a lack of witnesses."