New Delhi: The death penalty awarded to three men, for being part of a mob which in February 1992 murdered 35 persons of village Bara in Bihar, has been modified by the Supreme Court which acquitted one and sent the other two to prison for their entire lives.
A bench of justices AK Patnaik and HL Gokhale acquitted Maoist Communist Centre member Naresh Paswan on the basis of lack of evidence and shoddy investigation by the police.
The death sentence of convicts Vyas Ram and Bugal Mochi, also MCC members, was commuted to life term by the bench on the basis of the long duration of the trial and because they belonged to economically weaker and exploited sections of society.
"We have to note that as far as the present trial is concerned, the occurrence of the crime is of February 1992 and the charges were framed in May 2004. More than nine years have gone thereafter also and the appellants have been facing the trauma of the crime and the trial all this period. Besides, as noted earlier, the manner in which the investigation has proceeded was far from satisfactory.
"The present incident was claimed to be a retaliatory attack by the members of MCC. They are essentially the persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes and backward classes and economically weaker and exploited sections of society. The attack was supposed to be in retaliation to an earlier attack by the Bhumihar community, led by the Ranvir Sena.
"It is quite possible that due to their poverty and caste conflict in the villages they were drawn in the melee and participated in the crime. This is not to say that such acts are to be condoned. But at the same time, we have to consider as to whether after taking into account these circumstances of the accused, death sentence was warranted. We do not think so," the bench said.
The apex court was hearing the plea of the three men who had challenged the death penalty awarded to them under the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) by a designated Gaya court in 2009.
The death reference of the three was also clubbed along with their appeal.