Eighteen years after the acquittal of 19 persons, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday convicted eight of them who were members of Peasants and Workers Party, for killing a Congress worker in the village Funde in Uran taluka, in neighbouring Raigad district.
On April 2, 1988 one Suresh Gharat, a Congress party worker was killed when a group of 15 to 20 villagers attacked him and few others.
Public prosecutor PA Pol argued that Suresh and others, most of them Congress workers, were sitting at Gurbadevi Temple on the night of April 2 - April 3 to celebrate the annual festival of the deity. The temple was well lit for the festival.
Around 3 am, the accused persons - total of nineteen - attacked those sitting in the temple with sticks, choppers, swords, etc. While Suresh died in the attack, five others were seriously injured.
Pol argued that there was rivalry between the two parties there which was the prime motive behind the murder and attack.
However, the sessions court at Alibaug acquitted all the nineteen accused in 1990, on the ground that nine eyewitnesses who were themselves injured, could not have identified the accused in the dark.
A division bench of Justice DG Deshpande and Justice SR Sathe reversed the lower court's order stating that since the temple was lit-up for festivities and it was a full-moon night, prosecution witnesses' statements were believable.
The court however acquitted five of the accused. The total accused initially were 19, but prosecution did not press the case against five, and one of the remaining fourteen -against whose acquittal state filed appeal - died.