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Seven accused in murder of minister 20 years back acquitted by HC

All seven persons, alleged Maoists, who were sentenced to life terms by a lower court for being involved in the murder of the then state transport minister Likhiram Kawre in February 1999, have been discharged by the double bench of the High Court in Jabalpur on Tuesday

bhopal Updated: Mar 07, 2019 22:04 IST
Monika Pandey
Monika Pandey
Hindustan Times, Bhopal/Jabalpur
Moists,naxalites,Likhiram Kawre
(HT File photo/PTI)

All seven persons, alleged Maoists, who were sentenced to life term by a lower court for being involved in the murder of the then state transport minister Likhiram Kawre in February 1999, have been discharged by the double bench of the High Court in Jabalpur.

As per the prosecution, on February 16, 1999, the then state transport minister Likhiram Kawre in the then Congress government led by Digvijaya Singh had been brutally murdered, allegedly by Maoists, in his house in Sonpuri village, Balaghat, allegedly to take revenge for the killing of four Maoists in Andhra Pradesh on February 2. The murder had rocked the state as Kawre was the first minister to be allegedly killed by the Maoists.

The case was investigated by the CBI and two separate trials were held in the Balaghat district court, in one case against four persons and in the other against three persons. One judgment came on July 23, 2005 and the other on August 14, 2015, where the accused were given life sentences and the accused appealed in high court, where both the cases were clubbed.

In their judgment, justice J P Gupta and justice Subodh Abhiyankar said the main prosecution witness Mohan Singh Kunjam said he had been forced to take the Maoists to minister Kawre’s house who then killed him. However, he had not identified any of the killers by name. The other prosecution witness, who is also an accused who turned approver, Makhan confessed that he was involved in the killing. However, the court noted that before his confessional statement, Makhan and his wife were in police custody for 20 days and it is possible that he gave his statement under duress.

The order also pointed out that the prosecution failed to join the chain of circumstantial evidence and they also failed to give solid physical evidence.

Additional advocate general Ajay Gupta said they were planning to appeal against the judgment in the Supreme Court.

First Published: Mar 07, 2019 22:04 IST