8 convicted, 3 acquitted in Khairlanji murder case

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Nagpur, Sep 15 (UNI) A trial court in Bhandara today convicted eight of the eleven accused and acquitted the remaining three in the case pertaining to the gruesome killing, almost 2 years ago, of 4 members of a Dalit family in village Khairlanji in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra.

First Ad Hoc Judge and First Additional Sessions Judge S S Das in Bhandara, who has been hearing the case, set September 20 as the date for pronouncement of the quantum of punishment to the convicts.

Judge Das held Gopal Benjewar, Shatrughan Dhande, Dharmapal Dhande, Vishwanath Dhande, Prabhakar Mandlekar, Jagdish Mandlekar, Ramu Dhande and Sakru Benjewar guilty of the charges under sections 148 (rioting), 149 (unlawful assembly), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

He however, acquitted Mahipal Dhande, Shishupal Dhande and Purushottam Titarmare of the charges on the grounds of discrepancies in the deposition of the witnesses.

The CBI had also filed charges under various sections of the Atrocities Act, but the court had not accepted these, noted lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, the special public prosecutor in the case, told UNI.

The court has also ordered prosecution witness, Mahadeo Jaunjal, to be prosecuted under section 344 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) for turning hostile during his deposition.

Mr Nikam said he had mixed feelings about the verdict. While he was satisfied that eight accused had been convicted, he was dejected that three had been acquitted, he said.

Surekha Bhotmange (45), daughter Priyanka (18), and sons Roshan (23) and Sudhir (21) were lynched by a mob in Khairlanji in Bhandara district late on the night of September 29, 2006, over a land dispute. The head of the family, Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, had managed to escape and survived.

The police had arrested 47 people during investigation into the incident. The probe was later handed over to the CBI, which filed a chargesheet against 11 persons, with the remaining 36 being released as no charges were brought against them. There had been widespread violence at several places in Vidarbha, including Nagpur, Yavatmal and Amravati, in the weeks after the killings.

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