Staines case: SC admits pleas by Singh, CBI
Posted October 19, 2005
Wednesday, October 19, 2005 23:58 IST
Daily News & Analysis India
The Supreme Court on Wednesday admitted the cross-appeals filed by Ravinder Pal Singh, alias Dara Singh, against his conviction and life sentence and the CBI seeking capital punishment for him in the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons.
The appeals against the judgment of the Orissa high court were admitted by a bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Altamas Kabir, which took exception to CBI arguments which were not mentioned in the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by it.
When the CBI counsel advanced some reasons for setting aside the high court verdict acquitting 11 accused in the case, the bench said he was referring to the reasons which are not part of the SLP. "Are you reading extra papers which are not in the SLP?" the Bench asked the counsel and said it has only to see the reasons given for acquittal by the high court and it is for the agency to show how it was against the law. The high court on May 19 had set aside Dara's death sentence for the murder of Staines and his two minor sons - Philip (10) and Timothy (6) - but had upheld life imprisonment on him for being part of an unlawful assembly that burnt them alive.
Along with Dara, another person, Mahendra Hembram, was convicted in the case. However, the high court had acquitted 11 others, who were awarded life terms by the trial court in the case that had sparked worldwide outrage in 1999. The high court had held that there was absolutely no evidence on record that due to the individual act of Dara Singh, the three persons or any of them died and had quashed the capital punishment for him.
Pointing out loopholes in the evidence, the high court had said it was "risky" and "dangerous" to convict so many accused on the basis of speculative evidence of a witness who did not disclose the matter to anyone except a CBI officer five months after the incident.
The trial court had convicted 13 accused, including Dara Singh, under Section 302 (murder) read with 149 (every member of an unlawful assembly guilty of crime) of the Indian Penal Code and had awarded life imprisonment to them. The court had awarded death sentence to Dara by finding him guilty under a separate charge under Section 302.
Dara, whose death penalty was commuted into life imprisonment by the high court, contended that his conviction was merely upheld on the basis of presumption of his presence at the site of incident as the mob was shouting slogans in his name. CBI has sought the re-imposition of death sentence for Dara terming the case as rarest of rare.