'Govt must ensure conviction under Atrocities Act in Khairlanji case

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Nagpur, Sep 17 (UNI) A section of Dalit activists here has demanded that the Maharashtra government must ensure conviction of the accused in the Khairlanji murder case under the Atrocities Act.

Speaking to newsmen here yesterday, several activists, including noted author Yeshwant Manohar, said that the prosecution should strive to get all the 11 accused convicted under the Atrocities Act when it goes into appeal before the High Court. For this, the prosecution must argue forcefully when it files an appeal against the acquittal of three of the 11 accused, Mr Manohar said.

''It has come as a disappointment and a surprise to us that the trial court did not allow the application of the Atrocities Act in the case, when the circumstances were clearly so. It was unfortunate that this was done on the technical ground that the police complaint made no mention of this. A larger view must be taken, as has been done in other cases,'' he said.

Demanding capital punishment for all the convicts, Mr Manohar said only the harshest sentence would reassure the people, especially women, of the efficacy of the judicial system in the state. The Dalits would come onto the streets if the culprits were not given the capital punishment, he added.

On Monday last, a trial court in Bhandara held eight of the 11 accused guilty and acquitted the remaining three in the case pertaining to the gruesome killing, almost two years ago, of four members of a Dalit family in village Khairlanji.

Surekha Bhotmange (45) and her three children -- Priyanka (18), 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. There had been widespread violence at several places in Vidarbha, including Nagpur, Yavatmal and Amravati, in the weeks after the killings.

First Ad Hoc Judge and First Additional Sessions Judge S S Das in Bhandara, who is hearing the case, set September 20 as the date for arguments by the prosecution and the defence on the quantum of punishment. He will then set the date for handing down the sentence.

In the early stages of the hearing, the court had rejected the charges filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under various sections of the Atrocities Act.

Counsel for the prosecution said they would appeal against the acquittal of three of the accused. Similarly, the defence also indicated its intention to appeal against the convictions.

Police had arrested 47 people in all during the investigation into the incident. The probe was later handed over to the CBI, which filed a chargesheet against 11 people, while the remaining 36 were released as no charges were brought against them.

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