A Patna court on Wednesday sent 16 persons to the gallows and awarded life imprisonment to 10 others for killing 58 people in 1997.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 each on those who were sentenced to life imprisonment. Nineteen persons were acquitted for want of evidence.
The sentence came 13 years after the massacre by the Ranvir Sena, a private militia raised by upper-caste landlords of central Bihar, on December 1, 1997 at Laxmanpur Bathe village in Jehanabad district - now part of Arwal — about 105 km southwest from here.
The massacre is considered to be the worst-ever in the state. Among the dead were 21 men, 27 women and 10 children. Four families were completely wiped out.
The dispute was over the ownership of a large piece of unused land belonging to the state.
Announcing the judgment, Additional District and Sessions Judge Vijay Prakash Mishra handed over the copies of the quantum of punishment separately to all the 26 accused.
On December 24, 2008, the police framed charges of unlawful assembly with prohibited weapons, with the sole objective to kill against 44 of the 47 accused — three absconding since.
Of them, three died during the trial period. The rest 41 accused were present in the court to receive the verdict.
All the accused, who were held guilty on March 31, were earlier brought to the court from Beur Central Jail.
And the court premises had been turned into a fortress.
A large number of people, including the relatives of the victims, were also present in the court at the time of
pronouncement of the verdict.
Altogether, 14 senior lawyers, nine from the prosecution and four from the defence, appeared before the trial court.
While the prosecution
produced 91 out of 152 witnesses listed, nine witnesses deposed on behalf of the defence.
The case was first lodged with Mehendia police station in Jehanabad district — now part of Arwal district — on the
basis of a statement of Binod Paswan, who survived the attack.
Later, the trial of the case was shifted to Patna from Jehanabad on the directive of the Patna High Court.