A fast track court on Friday sentenced gangster Sandeep Acharya alias Raja and his associate to rigorous life imprisonment for killing judo coach Biranchi Das, who had groomed the world's youngest marathon runner Budhia Singh.
Four days after convicting the duo for gunning down the judo coach on April 13, 2008, Fast Track Court judge Vivekananda Das on Friday morning pronounced the life term for Raja and Akshya Behera alias Chagala.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on each of the accused. The convicts would have to undergo an additional one year jail term in case of failure to pay the fine. Though the prosecution pressed for death sentence for Raja and Chagala, the judge pronounced life term, observing that it cannot be treated as a rarest of rare case.
Before the quantum of punishment was pronounced, Raja's counsel Bana Mohanty pleaded for minimum punishment. Gangster and Chagala also claimed that they were innocent.
The court, which examined 28 witnesses, including five eye-witnesses, pronounced life term for the duo under Section 302 (murder), seven years jail term under Section 120(B) (conspiracy) and three years under Section 25 and Section 27 of the Arms Act. All sentences would run concurrently.
Raja's lawyer Bana Mohanty said his clients would appeal against the judgement and claimed that there were certain lacunae in the case.
The murder of the judo coach had created a sensation as the victim had played a significant role in grooming Budhia, who covered a distance of 65 km from Puri to Bhubaneswar on May 2, 2006 in 7.02 hours when he was only six years old.
"I am happy that the killer is convicted," Budhia, presently staying at Kalinga Stadium Sports Hostel, had told reporters after the court convicted the duo.
According to the prosecution, Das was shot dead by Raja and Chagala at the Judo Hall when he was celebrating 'Mahabisubha Sankranti' on the evening of April 13, 2008. Biranchi was killed as he tried to dissuade Raja from pestering and disturbing a woman artiste, who had sought Biranchi's help. Raja was arrested on May 5, 2008, after he surrendered to the police at Panaji in Goa.
Chagala had surrendered in Bhopal just days before on April 29. Associate Special Public Prosecutor Sudhanshu Sekhar Swain and Biranchi's wife Gitanjali, also a judo coach, welcomed the sentence pronounced by the court.
Commissioner of Police B K Sharma said it was the first time state police had used 'voice spectrography' in the case which provided a lot of technical evidence to support the prosecution, though the weapon used in the crime could not be recovered.