Khairlanji murders: Dalit killers escape death
Agencies Posted online: Wed Jul 14 2010, 15:09 hrs
Nagpur : The Bombay High Court on Wednesday commuted the death
sentence of six convicts in the infamous Khairlanji Dalit killings
case to 25 years imprisonment and fixed a similar sentence for two
others serving life term.
Justice Lavande of Nagpur bench of the court held that all the eight
convicts will undergo 25 years of life imprisonment including the
period they have already spent in jail.
The case pertains to the brutal murder of four members of a Dalit
family - Surekha Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, her daughter Priyanka, sons
Sudhir and Roshan - by an angry mob in Khairlanji village on September
Justice A P Lavande pronounced the judgement while Justice R C Chavan,
who is on an assignment at the High Court in Mumbai, joined him via
video conference here.
This is for the first time that a judgement has been pronounced by a
division bench through video conference.
Pronouncing the operative part of the verdict, Justice Lavande
disposed of appeals of defence as well as prosecution.
CBI had appealed for enhancing the sentence of two convicts, who were
sentenced for life. The convicts had also appealed against the
sentence by the trial court at Bhandara.
The death sentence awarded by the trial court had come up before the
High Court for confirmation.
The bench had heard the matter on a daily basis from March 29 and
reserved it for judgement before the summer vacation.
In view of sensitivity of the matter, a tight vigil was maintained in
and around the high court.
A trial court of S S Dass, on September 24, 2008, awarded capital
punishment to six persons. Two others were given life imprisonment.
The six convicts whose death sentence has been commuted to life are
Sakru Binjewar, Ramu Dhande, Shatrughan Dhande, Vishwanath Dhande,
Jagdish Mandlekar and Prabhakar Mandlekar. Gopal Binjewar and
Shishupal Dhande were awarded life imprisonment.
The CBI had also filed appeal against acquittal of all the eight under
the Prevention of Atrocities on SC/ST Act as the victims belonged to a
Dalit family from Khairlanji.
However, the High Court did not consider the CBI plea and upheld the
trial court's judgement dropping the charges under the Prevention of
CBI Counsel Ejaz Khan demanded enhancement of sentence for two accused
who were sentenced to life. He argued that trial court ought to have
considered evidence which pointed out towards sexual abuse of Surekha
"By dropping the atrocities charges against the accused persons, the
gravity of crime has been substantially diluted," CBI contended.
The defence lawyers pointed out several discrepancies and omissions in
the evidence produced on record. Political pressure and biased
investigation has resulted in miscarriage of justice, they claimed.
The defence lawyers charged the prime witness Siddarth Gajbhiye with
falsely implicating innocent villagers of Khairlanji. Even Mukesh
Pusam, another prime witness, was not present in the village on the
day of the incident, they argued.
The accused challenged their conviction and supported the decision of
special court to drop charges under the Prevention of Atrocities Act
and also charges of sexual abuse.
Counsel Khan represented CBI in the High Court while Special Public
Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam had conducted the trial before the special
court at Bhandara. Advocates Neeraj Khandewale and Sudeep Jaiswal
defended the accused in the trial court as well in High Court.
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