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Khairlanji killers off death row

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence awarded by a fast-track court to six persons convicted for killing four members of a Dalit family in Khairlanji village of Bhandara district in Maharashtra in 2006.

india Updated: Jul 15, 2010 02:01 IST
HT Correspondents

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court on Wednesday commuted the death sentence awarded by a fast-track court to six persons convicted for killing four members of a Dalit family in Khairlanji village of Bhandara district in Maharashtra in 2006.

In a jolt to the Maharashtra government and the CBI, the Nagpur bench commuted the sentences to life imprisonment.

Life imprisonment to two other accused was, however, upheld by the court and all the eight accused will undergo 25 years’ rigorous imprisonment.

Four members of the Bhotmange family -- Surekha (40) and her three children, daughter Priyanka (18) and sons, Sudhir (21) and Roshan (20) -- were killed by a group of upper-caste Hindus in Khairlanji, 125 km from Nagpur, in 2006.

The group reportedly killed the Bhotmanges on the suspicion that Surekha was involved in an illicit relationship. Some members of the group clashed with Siddharth Gajbhiye, the man with whom Surekha was supposedly having an affair.

"The incident had not occurred on account of caste hatred but the incident occurred since the accused felt that they were falsely implicated in the crime of beating Siddharth Gajbhiye by Surekha and Priyanka," the judges said. "Moreover, there is no evidence brought on record that the accused have a criminal record," they observed.

The judges said, "We are of the considered opinion that a case for awarding the death sentence to accused is not made out and, therefore, the accused do not deserve death sentence."