The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Acquitted stand accused
Seven days to surrender

The Oxytown murders, which had wiped out a family of four, are back under the legal scanner. Calcutta High Court on Monday ordered Lakshmi Narayan Chakraborty and Chandan Das, the prime accused who were acquitted in March, to surrender before the trial court within seven days.

“The investigating authorities will have the liberty to re-arrest them if they fail to surrender by that time,” the bench of Justice A. Talukdar and Justice A.K. Bhattacharya ruled while responding to an appeal against the acquittal filed by the state government.

Chakraborty, a schoolteacher, and Das, an alleged contract killer, were charged with slitting the throats of Sohini Pal and her parents and sister on June 9, 1999, at their Oxytown home, in Behala.

The decomposed bodies of Sohini, 22, Triparna, 16, Manjulika, 51, and Bidyut, 55, were found five days later.

Moving the appeal, public prosecutor Ashimesh Goswami argued that the trial court judgment was biased and not “in accordance with the law”.

“The trial judge did not consider many of the documents placed by the investigating agency to prove the guilt of the accused,” Goswami submitted.

The trial court had observed that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges brought against Chakraborty and Das and that the investigators could not produce any conclusive evidence against them.

The public prosecutor also stated that there is every possibility of the accused leaving the country if they are not taken into custody. “They should be asked to surrender before the court.”

A week ago, the same bench had admitted a “revision petition” moved by Bidyut Pal’s brother Tripti Kumar Pal and issued rules against Chakraborty and Das, asking them why the acquittal should not be set aside.

“Generally, the high court asks persons acquitted of murder charges to surrender before the trial court when the state government challenges the lower court judgment. In this case, the court has also given the police the liberty to rearrest the accused if they fail to surrender within the stipulated period,” said lawyer Subroto Mookherjee.

The prosecution had alleged that Chakraborty, who was Sohini’s private tutor, had an affair with her. When she became pregnant and asked Chakraborty to marry her, he turned down her plea, saying he was already married. He reportedly asked her to get an abortion.

As relations between the Pals and Chakraborty soured, the tutor hired Das to kill all four members of the family, the chargesheet had stated.

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