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10 get life for engineers' murder

Family members of slain engineer Brajesh Kumar. Picture by Rajesh Kumar

Patna: A court in Darbhanga on Wednesday awarded life imprisonment to 10 persons in connection with the murder of two engineers of a private road construction company, allegedly for refusing to pay up extortion money, that had rocked Bihar on December 26, 2015.

The court headed by Darbhanga additional district and sessions judge V Rupesh Dev sentenced 10 of the 14 accused for being involved in the killing of the two engineers, Mukesh Kumar and Brajesh Kumar, in Darbhanga's Shivram area, around 165km north-east of Patna, when the duo had gone for site inspection.

The engineers were killed with AK-47 assault rifles at the construction site on the state highway-88 near Shivrampur village under the jurisdiction of Baheri police station in Darbhanga district.

The daylight murder of the engineers associated with C&C Private Ltd had led to a furore and forced the state police headquarters to engage the personnel of the Greyhounds-trained special task force (STF) to nab the culprits. Notorious gangster Mukesh Pathak and his associate Vikas Jha were among those named in the case lodged with the Baheri police station in Darbhanga district.

Darbhanga additional public prosecutor Anil Kumar said that the trial was conducted on a daily basis and the verdict came within one-and-half years of submission of the charge sheet and framing of charges against the accused. The prosecution had demanded capital punishment of the prime accused.

"We will go to higher court to increase the quantum of punishment. The petition will be filed in the high court," Anil Kumar said, adding that the judgment was pronounced through video conferencing.

The court also imposed penalty of Rs 60,000 each on the 10 convicts.

The court had held the accused guilty on February 26 and fixed March 7 as the date for pronouncement of the sentence. The accused were held guilty under sections 302 (murder), 386/109 and 387/109 (extortion) and 120 (B) (conspiracy) of the IPC besides Section 27 (2) of the Arms Act.

The court acquitted four of the accused, Rishi Jha, Subodh Dubey, Tunna Jha and Anchal Jha, for lack of evidence.

Another accused, Chunnu Mishra alias Sumit Mishra, died during trial of the case. Altogether 19 witnesses were examined during trial in the court.

All the convicts - Mukesh Pathak, Abhishek Jha, Santosh Jha, Munni Devi, Pintu Tiwari, Pintu Jha alias Baba, Nikesh Dubey, Pintulal Dev, Vikas Jha and Sanjay Lal - were sent to Darbhanga central jail.

The engineers were killed allegedly for denial of payment of Rs 75 lakh as extortion money to the incarcerated Maoist-turned-gang leader Santosh Jha.

Munni Devi, one of the convicts, is a former block pramukh of Baheri. She was charged with providing shelter to the assailants in her house at Baheri.

Hailing the verdict, Braj Kishore Singh, elder brother of one of the two slain engineers Brajesh Kumar, a resident of Dehri-on-Sone in Rohtas district, said: "The whole family is indebted to the court, prosecuting agency and the witnesses for getting the offenders punished for the heinous crime."

The slain engineer's octogenarian mother, Kaushalya Kuer, said: " Agar phansi ki saja hoti to dil ko jyada shukun milta (The death sentence to the convicts would have soothed my soul a bit more)".

The Darbhanga police have stepped up security arrangements around the official residence of the judge in the wake of the conviction of the notorious gangsters in the engineers' murder case. Last week, unidentified miscreants had ransacked the official residence of the judicial official.

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