SC admits plea against acquittal in Bihar massacre


New Delhi : The Supreme Court Monday admitted a Bihar government plea challenging the acquittal of 23 accused in the massacre of 20 Dalits by the Ranvir Sena in Bathani Tola in Bhojpur district in 1996.

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An apex court bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar admitted the plea and issued notice to the acquitted accused.

The trial court had convicted all the 23 accused and had awarded death sentence to three. However, all of them were acquitted by the Patna High Court.

The case related to the killing of 20 Dalits by members of the Ranvir Sena when they attacked village Bathani Tola July 11, 1996 in Bhojpur district, some 100 km from state capital Patna.

The Bihar government in its petition said that the “high court has failed to appreciate the evidence led by the prosecution in its correct perspective” and it “resulted in grave miscarriage of justice and deserved to be set aside”.

The government challenged the high court’s April 16 verdict acquitting all the accused, including three who were awarded death sentence by the trial court.

The trial court May 5, 2010 convicted 23 and acquitted 30 accused. The convicts were found guilty of rioting and murder.

The government’s petition filed by counsel Abhinav Mukherjee contended that the high court “failed to consider any of the reasons advanced by the trial court in its well reasoned and detailed judgment”.

The petition said that the impugned orders “disregarded the evidence of the prosecution witnesses only on account of minor discrepancies and failed to apply the law” declared by the apex court in several cases.

Referring to earlier judgments of the apex court, the petition said that “there would hardly be a witness whose evidence does not contain some amount of exaggeration or embellishment, sometimes there would be a deliberate attempt to offer the same and sometimes the witnesses in their over-anxiety to do better from the witness-box detail out an exaggerated account”.