The Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence awarded to six persons for committing a double murder following a row over plucking of mangoes nearly 37 years ago in Bihar.
"After appreciating the evidence of the witnesses, the High Court recorded...its judgement that the genesis of the incident lied only in the fact that when the accused persons insisted on plucking the mangoes (from the victims' orchard), the same was objected to by the complainant and his sons.
"The High Court, undoubtedly, is correct in recording the finding that it is at that point of time when the exchange of words took place between the parties that the seeds of the further incident were sown," a bench of Justices V S Sirpurkar and Mukundakma Sharma said.
It, however, acquitted three others of the charges and directed their immediate release.
The case of the prosecution was that on July 5, 1973 at about 7 am the accused murdered Shambhu Nath Singh and his brother Prabhu Nath Singh at the victims' mango orchard in Bihar's Saran district.
The accused committed the murder by using fire arms and spears after the deceased objected to plucking of mangoes. It was further stated in the FIR that on seeing this, Baijnath Singh, father of the victims, asked the accused to kill him too when one of the accused Patiram Ojha retorted that it was useless to kill an old man and he better flee the scene.
Ojha himself died during the trial.
The sessions court convicted and sentenced to life nine of the accused -- Thakur Singh, Akhilesh Ojha, Keshav Singh, Ram Pravesh Singh, Gorakh Nath Singh, Thakur Ojha, Jitendra Singh, Raj Nath Singh and Adalat Pandit.
The Patna High Court upheld the sentence after which the accused moved the Supreme Court.
The apex court after perusal of the records, said the prosecution could not establish the charge against Thakur Singh, Akhilesh Ojha and Keshav Singh.
However, it said the evidence clearly established the role of other accused and accordingly upheld their conviction and life sentence.