New Delhi, Jan 21 (PTI) The Supreme Court today rejectedthe CBI''s plea for death penalty to Dara Singh, convicted forburning alive Australian missionary Graham Staines and his twominor sons in January 1999, and upheld the life term awardedto him by the Orissa High Court.
A bench comprising justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan,while dismissing the agency''s plea for death penalty, said thepunishment can be imposed only in the "rarest of rare" casesdepending upon the facts and situation of each case.
In the present case, the apex court said, the offencecommitted by the convicts, though highly condemnable, does notfall in the category of rarest of rare to warrant a deathsentence.
Dara Singh and Mahendra Hembrom were found guilty ofburning to death Staines and his sons while they were sleepinginside a van in front of a church at Manoharpur village inKoenjhar district of Orissa on January 22, 1999.
The bench had on December 15 last year reserved itsjudgement after hearing at length the arguments of CBI''scounsel and Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha andcounsel for the convicts.
Senior counsel K T S Tulsi and Ratnakar Dash, besidescounsel Sibo Shankara Mishra, appeared for the 12 convicts.
Appearing for CBI, Tankha had told the bench that DaraSingh deserves death sentence as the murders were committed ina most "diabolic and dastardly manner" which warrantedexemplary punishment.
Dara had filed an appeal challenging his convictionand the life sentence awarded to him. The appeals wereadmitted by the apex court in October 2005.
On May 19, 2005, the Orissa High Court had commuted tolife imprisonment the death penalty imposed by the sessionscourt on Dara Singh for the murder of Staines and his twominor sons -- Philip, 10, and Timothy, 6. Along with Dara,another person Mahendra Hembram was convicted in the case.
However, the High Court had acquitted 11 others whowere awarded life terms by the trial court in the case.
The trial court in Khurda had in September 2003convicted all the 13 accused. While Dara Singh was awardeddeath sentence, others were given life imprisonment.