HC confirms lifer for hooch case kingpin

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  • Published 30.10.11

Cuttack, Oct. 29: Orissa High Court today confirmed the life sentence awarded six years ago to Belu alias Surendra Das, the prime accused in the 1992 Cuttack hooch tragedy, following conviction in the Raimohan Patnaik murder case.

On April 26, 2001, Raimohan Patnaik, a senior clerk at the Bureau of Statistics, Bhubaneswar, was shot at near Kesarpur in Cuttack. He succumbed to the bullet injuries on the way to hospital.

Additional sessions judge Amiya Kumar Behera of Fast Track Court III, Cuttack, had sentenced Belu to life imprisonment on August 23, 2005. Belu had challenged the conviction and sentence in a criminal appeal on the ground that the prosecution had presented no evidence that linked him with the murder at a time when he was in a jail.

The high court had granted him bail on November 22, 2006. The hearing on his criminal appeal was closed and judgment was reserved on April 18, 2008.

The division bench of Justice Bimal Prasad Das and Justice Madan Mohan Das pronounced the verdict on the criminal appeal today saying: “We confirm the conviction and sentence.”

The high court endorsed the conviction and sentence by the trial court on the basis of circumstantial evidence and the oral dying declaration presented by the prosecution.

The prosecution said: “In his oral declaration before the police, Raimohan had stated that Belu’s associates had suspected him to be an informer of the state crime branch. They had further suspected him to be passing information relating to the involvement of Belu in the 1992 hooch tragedy and had threatened him with life. In his dying declaration, he had also named the two persons who had come in a scooter and shot at him.”

The high court also endorsed the trial court’s reliance on evidence presented by the prosecution indicating that “the conspiracy to liquidate Raimohan was hatched at Choudwar Jail where Belu was lodged on remand in jail custody in connection with several other cases”.

Belu was arrested in September 1999 on charges of involvement in illegal trade of India-made foreign liquor on the basis of information given by Raimohan Patnaik, who was a police informer at that time.

In the murder case, the trial court had sentenced to life imprisonment three others, namely Y. Jagannath Rao, Gaba Nandi and Akhay Das. The high court also confirmed their conviction and sentence.

In another development, the trial is yet to be completed in connection with 12 other registered murder cases related to the 1992 Cuttack hooch tragedy that had claimed the lives of more than 250 persons.