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Bombay HC defers Khairlanji verdict by a month

June 15, 2010 15:51 IST

The much awaited verdict on the 2006 Khairlanji Dalit massacre case was deferred by a month by the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court on Tuesday, as one of Judges was pre-occupied with an assignment.

Justice A P Lavande told lawyers in his chamber that the judgment would be pronounced on July 14 as Justice R C Chavan, who also heard the matter was on assignment at Mumbai bench.

Justices Lavande and Chavan had heard the matter on a day-to-day basis from March 29 and reserved for judgment before summer vacation.

The accused were not produced in the high court on Tuesday.

The police maintained strict vigil around the court premises, as the case has been highly controversial.

Four members of a Dalit family -- Surekha Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, her daughter Priyanka and sons Sudhir and Roshan -- were killed on September 29, 2006, over a land dispute in

Khairlanji village of Bhandara district in Maharashtra.

Six people were sentenced to death and two were punished with life imprisonment by a Bhandara court on September 24, 2008.

In March-April this year, the high court bench had heard arguments on the confirmation of sentences. The bench had also heard appeals of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the prosecuting agency, and defence lawyers.

The CBI had appealed against the lower court's order dropping charges under Atrocities Act for lack of evidence and for enhancement of sentence of two life convicts to death.

The defence lawyers had appealed against the trial court's verdict sentencing six accused to death and two to life imprisonment.

A special court sentenced six to death and two to life imprisonment in the Khairlanji case on September 24, 2008.

The six facing death sentence are Sakru Binjewar, Ramu Dhande, Shatrughan Dhande, Vishwanath Dhande, Jagdish Mandlekar and Prabhakar Mandlekar.

Gopal Binjewar and Shishupal Dhande were awarded life imprisonment.

The CBI had appealed against acquittal of all the eight accused under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, saying the victims belonged to a Dalit family.

Ejaz Khan, the CBI's counsel, had earlier demanded the enhancement of sentence for two accused and argued that the trial court ought to have considered evidence pointing towards sexual abuse of Surekha and Priyanka.

By dropping the atrocity charge against the accused, the gravity of crime had been substantially diluted, he had said.

Defence lawyers Neeraj Khandewale and Sudeep Jaiswal had pointed out several discrepancies and omissions in the evidence.

The lawyers had charged prime witness Siddarth Gajbhiye with falsely implicating innocent villagers of Khairlanji with an oblique motive.
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