LN Mishra case: SC angry over protracted trial

SC expressed anguish at the 37 years of delay in the trial relating to the murder of then Union Railway Minister LN Mishra.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed anguish at the 37 years of delay in the trial relating to the murder of then Union Railway Minister LN Mishra at Samastipur, Bihar, and the attempt on then Chief Justice of India AN Ray in Delhi by alleged Anand Margis.
A bench of justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai
directed the Delhi High Court to record afresh the statement
of Vikram, approver for CBI on whose confessional statements
accused Santoshanand Avadhoot and Sudevanand Avadhoot were
awarded 10 years rigorous imprisonment and advocate Ranjan
Dwivedi was sentenced to four years RI by the trial court.

The convicts have challenged their conviction on the
ground that CBI`s approver Vikram had retracted his

"Before parting with the record of the case, we are
constrained to say that we are distressed beyond words to find
that the case relating to the attempt on the life of the CJI
remains stuck up at the stage of the appeal even after about
37 years of the occurrence. We are informed that the other
case of the killing of Shri LN Mishra is still mired before
the trial court, the bench said.

On March 20, 1975, at about 4.15 p.m. when the car in
which Justice A N Ray, the Chief Justice of India, was
travelling along with his son Ajoy Nath Ray, head constable
Jai Nand and driver Inder Singh, two hand grenades were lobbed
inside the car on Bhagwan Das Road in central Delhi, which
they escaped as the explosives failed to go off.
About two and a half months before the incident, L N
Mishra, the then Railway Minister, was killed in a bomb blast
place during a function on the platform of Samastipur Railway

CBI had arrested the four persons and one of the accused
Vikram, who turned an approver, made a confessional statement
that Mishra`s killing and the attempt on the life Justice
Ray were part of a larger conspiracy of the organization.

At the conclusion of the trial, the Additional Sessions
Judge, Delhi, had on October 28, 1976, convicted Sudevanand
and Santoshanand and sentenced them to 10 yrs RI for
attempting to kill Justice Ray.

Ranjan Dwivedi was sentenced to 4 years rigorous
imprisonment for conspiracy.

However, on August 30, 1978, the then Chief Minister
of Bihar wrote a confidential letter to the Prime Minister ,
upon which the Bihar CID recorded a fresh statement of Vikram
in which he retracted the confession implicating the three

The LN Mishra case was subsequently transferred to Delhi
by the apex court.

However, more than 20 years after Vikram`s retraction the
convicts filed appeals in the Delhi High Court challenging
their conviction.
But on November 22, 2006, the high court dismissed their
plea as it was "filed after a lag of more than 20 years."

Aggrieved, the trio appealed in the apex court.

Upholding their appeal, the apex court said "not only
Vikram, who is making diametrically opposite statements, but
CBI and the state (CID) seem to be at loggerheads with the one
accusing the other of manipulating and using Vikram for its
own designs.

"It is an unusual case by any reckoning. It is very
difficult to say at this stage which of the statements is true
and which of the statements was made under the influence,
threat or coercion by the state officials or CBI, "Justice
Alam, writing the judgment, said.
The apex court said the position may be clear in case he
is subjected to further examination with reference to his
statement made in Danapur jail on September 30, 1978.

The apex court rejected CBI`s contention that once a
conviction was recorded on the basis of an approver`s
statement, no appeal was maintainable on the ground of
subsequent retraction.

"Take the case where, on the testimony of the approver, a
person is convicted by the trial court under Section 302 and
120-B etc. of the Penal Code and is sentenced to a life term.

"After the judgment and order passed by the trial court
and while the convict’s appeal is pending before the High
Court, the approver is found blabbering and boasting among
his friends that he was able to take the Court for a ride and
settled his personal score with the convict by sending him to
jail to rot at least for 14 years.

"Such a statement would also be completely beyond the
legal framework but can it be said that in light of such a
development the convicted accused may not ask the High Court
for recalling the Approver for further examination," the bench
said while directing the high court to record Vikram`s
statement afresh.