In a show of mercy, a Delhi court Thursday said the men convicted of murdering railway minister LN Mishra in 1975 should not be condemned to death and sentenced the four to life imprisonment instead.The "crime was committed by them during prime of their youth about 40 years ago…there is every possibility of their reformation,"said district judge Vinod Goel as he sentenced Ranjan Dwivedi, Santoshanand, Sudevanand and Gopalji to life in prison.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 each on Santoshanand, and Sudevanand, both in their late seventies, while a fine of Rs 20,000 each was slapped on Dwivedi, 66, and Gopalji,73 — all of whom have been undertrial for nearly forty years now. It has directed Patna legal services to inquire into and disperse the compensation to the victims’ families.
The judge had, on December 8, found all four guilty of the premeditated murder of the then Union minister in a blast at the Samastipur railway station on January 2, 1975. The court noted that the accused had been in the “prime of their youth, “thus susceptible to being motivated by “false ideas” and belief in a corrupt ideology when the crime was committed.
The court also observed that sufficient proof existed that one of CBI’s key witnesses Vikram — who is absconding — was tortured while in the custody of Danapur jail by its “jailor, jail superintendant, jail doctors, CID Bihar officers and high officers of the establishment.” Noting the pendency of the case — at 39 years it is thought to be the longest criminal trial in Indian history — the judge said action would have been ordered against the officers but for their retirement and lapse of time. A total of 213 witnesses were examined and about 6000 pages of evidence were recorded in the case.