Apex court upholds life term for Graham Staines’ killers (Third Lead)January 21st, 2011 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Exactly 12 years after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt to death by a mob of Hindu fanatics in Orissa, the Supreme Court Friday upheld life terms for Dara Singh, the man who led the mob, and his accomplice Mahender Hambram. The court said it did not fall in the “rarest of rare case” category to warrant death sentence.While confirming the life sentences, the apex court bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan in their judgment said: “Whether a case falls within the rarest of rare case or not, has to be examined with reference to the facts and circumstances of each case and the court has to take note of the aggravating as well as mitigating circumstances and conclude whether there was something uncommon about the crime which renders the sentence of imprisonment for life inadequate and calls for death sentence.”
Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam said: “There is no material to prove conspiracy charge against any of the accused.”
However, as pointed out by the high court, “we agree with and confirm the same and we also maintain the conviction” of Dara Singh, alias Ravinder Kumar Pal, and Mahendra Hambram and confirm the life imprisonment imposed on them.
“In the case on hand, though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity.”
“It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force’, provocation, conversion, incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other”, the judgment said referring to Mahatma Gandhi.
“All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the (Orissa) High Court and modified the sentence of death (of Dara Singh) into life imprisonment with which we concur,” the judgment said.
Dealing with the acquittal of the other accused by the high court, the judgment said, that it had “highlighted the weakness and infirmities of the prosecution case insofar as acquitted accused who are all poor tribals.”
The judgment further pointed out that “in the absence of definite assertion from the prosecution side, about their (acquitted accused) specific role and involvement, as rightly observed by the High Court, it is not safe to convict them. We entirely agree with the reasoning and conclusion of the High Court insofar as the order relating to acquittal of certain accused persons.”
Thus, in “the absence of acceptable materials and in view of the various infirmities in the prosecution case as pointed out by the High Court, we confirm the order of acquittal of others who are all poor tribals”, the judgment read.
The judgment said: “In a country like ours where discrimination on the ground of caste or religion is taboo, taking lives of persons belonging to another caste or religion is bound to have a dangerous and reactive effect on the society at large. It strikes at the very root of the orderly society which the founding fathers of our Constitution dreamt of.”
“Our concept of secularism is that the State will have no religion. The State shall treat all religions and religious groups equally and with equal respect without in any manner interfering with their individual right of religion, faith and worship,” the judgment read.
The judgment quoted former president K.R. Narayanan as having said: “Indian unity was based on a tradition of tolerance, which is at once a pragmatic concept for living together and a philosophical concept of finding truth and goodness in every religion.”
The judgment said: “We also conclude with the hope that Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of religion playing a positive role in bringing India’s numerous religion and communities into an integrated prosperous nation be realized by way of equal respect for all religions.”
Staines and his two sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), were burnt to death by a mob of Hindu activists Jan 22, 1999 while they were sleeping in their station wagon at Manoharpur village in Orissa’s Keonjhar district.
Dara Singh was awarded death sentence by a special CBI court in September 2003 while 12 of his accomplices were awarded life imprisonment. In May 2005, the Orissa High Court commuted Dara Singh’s death sentence to life imprisonment. Hambram was also sentenced to life while 11 others were acquitted.
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archbishop Raphael Cheenath said the Christian community accepted the apex court decision but added that the community had already forgiven the convict.
“As far as the Christian community is concerned, we have already forgiven him (Dara Singh),” Cheenath said.
“What the Supreme Court has given… the life imprisonment… we accept it,” the archbishop told IANS.
- Graham Staines killing: A timeline - Jan 21, 2011
- Apex court upholds life for Graham Staines' killers (Second Lead) - Jan 21, 2011
- Apex court upholds life for Graham Staines' killer (Lead) - Jan 21, 2011
- Staines killing worse than carnage, apex court told - Nov 11, 2010
- Apex court modifies Graham Staines murder verdict (Lead) - Jan 25, 2011
- Staines murder case: Dara Singh seeks review of SC judgement - Mar 09, 2011
- Staines murder case: Supreme Court upholds life sentence for Dara Singh - Jan 21, 2011
- Supreme Court modifies words in Graham Staines murder verdict - Jan 25, 2011
- Welcome apex court decision on Dara Singh: Archbishop - Jan 21, 2011
- Missionary's killer Dara Singh moves apex court for review (Lead) - Mar 10, 2011
- Apex court reserves ruling on sentence of Staines' killer - Dec 16, 2010
- Supreme Court modifies Graham Staines murder verdict - Jan 25, 2011
- Christians welcome modification of Staines murder verdict - Jan 25, 2011
- Missionary's killer seeks review of apex court verdict - Mar 09, 2011
- Graham Staines killing: Convict's bail plea hearing adjourned - Oct 20, 2010
Tags: accomplice, apex court, case category, conspiracy charge, court bench, dara singh, death sentence, graham staines, incitement, life imprisonment, life sentences, mahatma gandhi, mahender, mahendra, mitigating circumstances, orissa high court, rare case, religious activities, sentence of death, tribals