The Supreme Court on Thursday slammed the Haryana government for refusing to accept that the killing of an old Dalit man and his physically-challenged daughter at a village in Rohtak district by a dominant community in 2010 was a murder.
The apex court, which dubbed the incident as "scar on the society", expressed its anguish after the state government said the 70-year-old man and his handicap daughter were "trapped" in the house after it was set on fire and the trial court has not held their death as murder.
"What a tragedy that a physically handicap girl is trapped and dies in the house set on fire and the state can't protect. What a huge tragedy. What were state government officials doing at that time?" a bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and C Nagappan said.
"Particular caste has liberty to take law in its hand and kill people," the bench said and took strong exception to Haryana government's stand that the victims cannot be rehabilitated in any village other than Mirchpur.
"They (Dalit victims) can't go there in the atmosphere of terror," the bench said when state government counsel repeatedly submitted their resettlement elsewhere is not accepted.
The bench told senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, who was appearing for the victims, that "your clients are at fault because they are poor and secondly they belong to a particular community and that is again their fault".
It said "it will not be accepted that somebody will kill human beings, particularly handicapped, because of being belonging to a particular caste".
The bench was hearing the issue of relief and rehabilitation for which it had set up a committee.
The court posted the matter for hearing on October 21.
A total of 15 people were convicted in the case by a trial court on September 24, 2011.
Three persons were sentenced to life imprisonment by a Delhi court on October 31, 2011 for their involvements in the April 2010 killings of a 70-year-old Dalit and his physically-challenged daughter at Haryana's Mirchpur village.
Five others were sentenced to varying jail terms up to five years and seven convicts were let off on probation for one year.
The court had earlier acquitted 82 out of 97 accused in the case saying the allegations levelled against them were not proved beyond reasonable doubt.
The 15 convicts, belonging to Jat community, were held guilty for setting ablaze victim Tara Chand's house, which caused the death on April 21, 2010 at Mirchpur village in Hissar district. The incident took place after a dispute between Jat and Dalit communities of the village.
The court had convicted Kulwinder, Ramphal and Rajender, who were sentenced to life term, on charges of committing unintentional killings under Section 304 of IPC.
Besides the three, 12 others were convicted on milder charges of arson, rioting and making unlawful assembly.
Six of them - Monu, Baljeet, Karamveer, Karampal, Bobal and Dharambir -- were convicted for setting ablaze the houses of Dalits.
Another six persons were held guilty of rioting, unlawful assembly and causing damages to properties by pelting stones.
The court had convicted the 15 accused after examining 68 prosecution witnesses, 44 defence witnesses and one court witness.
The accused were tried under various IPC sections dealing with murder, rioting, making unlawful assembly, promoting enmity between different communities, physical assault, creating mischief and damaging public property.
The accused resorted to rioting and attacked the houses of members of Dalit community on April 21 as a pet dog of a Dalit had barked at a group of Jats two days ago when they were passing through the colony, according to the charge sheet.
They got enraged when a Dalit boy objected to hurling of stones by Jat youths at the dog, it had said, adding later it led to the killings of Tara Chand and his physically- challenged teenaged daughter.