A Bihar court on Tuesday sentenced Kameshwar Yadav, the prime accused in the killing of a Muslim shop owner during communal violence in Bhagalpur in 1989, to rigorous life imprisonment.
The police had earlier closed the case against Yadav, citing lack of evidence. In fact, he was later given a citation for maintaining communal harmony by the state police in 2004 when the state was ruled by the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) government of Rabri Devi.
Bhagalpur Additional District and Sessions Judge Shambhunath Mishra delivered the sentence in a packed courtroom.
Yadav was the prime accused in the killing in the first of the 27 cases of the Bhagalpur violence reopened for investigation. Early this year, Yadav was named in a charge-sheet for killing the shop owner with the help of his associates.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar last year ordered a fresh probe into the 27 riots cases that were closed by police citing lack of evidence.
Last week, the court convicted Yadav and found him guilty under Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 149 (unlawful assembly), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offender) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections of the Arms Act.
Police officials said Yadav was the prime accused in the case related to the murder of betel-leaf kiosk owner Munna in Asanandpur locality of Bhagalpur.
Munna was shot dead by a mob led by Yadav and his body was never recovered. Thirteen witnesses deposed in the court for the prosecution during the trial and nine for the defence.
Over 1,000 people, a majority of them Muslims, were killed in the month-long riots in Bhagalpur city in October 1989.
Last year, Nitish Kumar instituted a fresh probe into the riots, rekindling hopes of many survivors and the kin of the victims of getting justice.
A new commission, headed by Justice (retd) N.N. Singh, submitted an interim report earlier this year and is now preparing the final report.