Purulia, Sept. 3: Banamali Mahato, 60, died of a heart attack this morning while in judicial custody in a correctional home. The shock of being found guilty, along with four others, of twin murders proved too much. He did not live to hear the life imprisonment sentence read out by the judge in a fast-track court today.
District magistrate B.P. Gopalika has ordered the Purulia subdivisional officer to carry out an inquest into the death, during which D.C. Ghosh, the jailor at the correctional home, will also be questioned.
The move comes as sessions judge (fast-track court 1) Asha Arora observed while passing her guilty judgment yesterday that Banamali appeared sick and should be given medical attention, even hospitalised if needed.
But Banamali was, for some reason, not shifted to a hospital, although the state of shock he was in after the ruling was quite evident, his lawyer pointed out.
In fact, the sessions judge had fixed August 27 for announcement of the final judgment after several hearings and postponements in the case dragging on for 18 years. But the date was again pushed back on the plea of Abani Mondal, the lawyer representing the accused, on the ground that Banamali was unwell and suffering from paralysis.
All five were ultimately produced yesterday and found guilty of murder. The sentence, to be passed after a point of hearing, was announced today.
The judge handed out life sentences to the remaining four — Saktipada Mahato, Chittaranjan Mahato, Bimal Mahato and Amal Mahato, all of whom were between 28 and 35 when two Santhals were killed in a harvest clash at Supurdih village, about 250 km from Calcutta, on November 14, 1985.
All the accused are said to be Congress supporters and had clashed with the Santhals, who apparently owed allegiance to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, over the right to harvest a paddy field in the village.
The clash, in which sharp weapons were used, claimed the lives of Indra and Mongol Majhi, also from Supurdih village. The five Mahatos were arrested within a few days and charged under section 302 of the IPC, among other accusations.