Patna, March 1: The high court on Friday acquitted all the 11 persons convicted in the Nagari Bazaar massacre of 1998.
Eleven people from Dalit and backward communities were killed in the carnage in Bhojpur in May 1998.
While setting aside the lower court’s order, a division bench comprising Justice V.N. Sinha and Justice Amaresh Kumar Lal, acquitted three men sentenced to death and eight who were awarded life imprisonment.
The court gave benefit of doubt to the accused persons for want of evidence.
The high court said the involvement of these persons (accused) could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
“Eyewitnesses could not be believed,” the court said.
On August 13, 2010, a civil court at Ara had convicted 11 accused in connection with the carnage, while acquitting four others for lack of evidence.
Another accused died during the trial.
The court had handed down death sentence to three persons, while eight were given life imprisonment.
Around 80-90 members of Ranvir Sena, a banned private army of upper caste landlords, had raided Nagari Bazaar village under the jurisdiction of Charpokhri police station of Bhojpur in the evening of May 11, 1998.
The members had opened fire, killing 10 persons on the spot, while one person died in a nearby hospital, the prosecution said.
The prosecution had filed chargesheet against 16 people in connection with the case. The local court at Ara acquitted four and another accused died during the trial. The Patna High Court acquitted the remaining 11 accused on Friday.
Those awarded gallows by the local court were Chandra Bhushan Singh, Ravindra Singh and Sudarshan Pandey.
Senior advocate Yogesh Chandra Verma, appearing for one of the appellants, along with senior advocates Rana Pratap Singh and Kanhaiya Prasad Singh, argued for acquittal of the accused.
In his submission before the high court, Verma said it is a case where witnesses are not reliable and the story of identification is not worth accepting.
Besides, delayed examination of witnesses by the police, delay in sending FIRs to the concerned magistrate could be other grounds for acquittal.
Topographical composition (vast area) of the place of occurrence is such that witness could not have identified the assailants, he submitted.
Informant of the case had said in the FIR that he identified the accused persons in a moon-lit night.
Within a year, this is the second time when the prosecution (police) have failed to establish the guilt of the persons accused of carrying out the massacre.
The high court on April 16, 2012, acquitted all the 23 persons accused in Bathani Tola massacre case, in which 21 Dalits were killed in 1996.
The high court had criticised the police’s investigation in the case, saying that the investigation was far from the truth and not above suspicion.