In a landmark ruling, the trial court here slapped death sentence on
six of the eight convicts in the two-year old multiple murder case in
Maharashtra’s Khairlanji village and sentenced two others to life
Reading out the operative part of the keenly awaited judgment that generated intense speculation, the first ad-hoc Sessions Judge S S Dass described the killings of four members of a Dalit family in Khairlanji village as a “fiendish act” calling for nothing less than death sentence.
After giving his verdict on September 15 on the slaughter of the wife and three children of Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, an humble Dalit farmer of Khairlanji of Bhandara district, by a frenzied mob on his house on September 29, 2006, the judge heard arguments on the quantum of sentence.
While the judge convicted eight of the eleven persons — accused for murder, rioting, causing removal of evidence and unlawful assembly — and acquitted three others for lack of evidence, he dropped the vital charges of atrocity and conspiracy. The mob attack was not inspired by caste animosity, he said.
The six who were awarded death sentence are: Sakru Mahagu Binjewar, Shatrughan Issam Dhande, Vishwanath Hagru Dhande, Ramu Mangru Dhande, Jagdish Ratan Mandlekar and Prabhakar Jaswant Mandlekar.
The two who will spend the rest of their lives in jail are Shishupal Vishwanath Dhande and Gopal Sakru Binjewar.
All the eight murder convicts, as also the three acquitted, namely Purushottam Titirmare, Mahipal Dhande and Dharampal Dhande, belong to the ‘Other Backward Castes’.
The CBI, which probed the case, filed chargesheet only against 11 of the original 47 accused and discharged 36.
Deputy chief minister R R Patil, special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam and legislator Nitin Raut joined Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange in expressing satisfaction over the judgment.
Bhaiyyalal, who lost his wife Surekha besides his children Priyanka, Sudhir and Roshan in the gory attack, however, requested to the government to go in appeal for securing conviction of the three accused acquitted by the trial court.
Defence lawyers Neeraj Khandewale and Sudip Jaiswal on the other hand said they would file an appeal in the high court against the death sentence on the grounds that it was not the rarest of rare cases.
Initially treated as gory fallout of a village feud, the carnage was later seen as a blatant case of atrocity against a Dalit family by caste Hindus, giving rise to widespread public outcry and inviting nationwide media attention.
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