Apex court modifies Graham Staines murder verdict

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NEW DELHI - Stung by widespread criticism, the Supreme Court Tuesday expunged the portion of its judgment which said that Australian missionary Graham Staines was killed in Orissa in 1999 by Hindu bigot Dara Singh and his accomplice in order to teach him a lesson for converting tribals into Christians.

The court expunged the portion of its judgment delivered Jan 21 on its own initiative.

The apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan said that it was deleting some portion of its judgment and substituting the same with other formulations.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam deleted the portion that read: “In the case on hand, though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the high court and modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur.”

This paragraph was substituted by the sentence: “However, more than 12 years have elapsed since the act was committed, we are of the opinion that the life sentence awarded by the high court need not be enhanced in view of the factual position discussed in the earlier paras.”

The court also expunged the portion of a sentence that read: “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force’, provocation, conversion and incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.”

A portion of this sentence was deleted and replaced by the sentence: “There is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means.”

Staines and his two minor sons Philip (10) and Timothy (6) were burnt to death while they were sleeping in a station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district Jan 22, 1999.

Ravinder Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh was awarded death sentence by the special Central Bureau of Investigation court. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Orissa High Court. The high court also confirmed the life imprisonment awarded to his co-convict Mahender Hambram by the trial court.

The apex court upheld the high court verdict in its Jan 21 judgment.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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