14 Sep 2023 5:12 AM GMT
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the rigorous life imprisonment sentence of the convicts in a witchcraft-related murder case. The Court ruled that the convicts had a common intention to kill the victim.The five accused persons called the deceased a witch (diayen) who is the cause of trouble to the villagers as she used to indulge in witchcraft and killed her.The Court...
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court upheld the rigorous life imprisonment sentence of the convicts in a witchcraft-related murder case. The Court ruled that the convicts had a common intention to kill the victim.
The five accused persons called the deceased a witch (diayen) who is the cause of trouble to the villagers as she used to indulge in witchcraft and killed her.
The Court observed “The very fact that they had assembled in the morning and surrounded (gheraoed) the deceased with deadly weapons is a sufficient indication to infer that they had surrounded (gheraoed) in a pre-planned manner with a pre-determined mind. Thus, the submission that they had no common intention stands completely ruled out. Moreover, the nature of injuries which have been caused on the head of the deceased with the deadly weapons proves that they had assembled with the common intention and not merely to threaten her or to deter her from practicing witchcraft.”
The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal was hearing a criminal appeal against a judgment of the Calcutta High Court which affirmed the conviction of petitioners and sentencing of rigorous imprisonment for life in a murder case.
The case related to an incident where the appellants, along with three others, surrounded the victim and her daughter-in-law while they were returning home after their daily routine. The victim was brutally assaulted with tangi, tabala, and lathi on her head, causing her to fall and die instantly.
A case was registered under Sections 341 and 302 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), leading to the conviction and sentencing of all 5 accused individuals to rigorous imprisonment for life by the trial court. The High Court affirmed this judgment on July 21, 2010.
All 5 accused individuals had challenged their convictions but the appeals by Surendra Gorain (A-2), Ranjit Gorai (A-4), and Rajen Gorain (A-5) were dismissed in 2011. Therefore, the present appeal before the Supreme Court concerned only two of them, Bhaktu Gorain (A-1) and Bandhu Gorain (A-3) referred to as appellants.
Although not directly involved in the murder, the appellants were considered part of a group with a shared intention to commit the crime by the court.
The Court observed, “Notwithstanding that two of the accused persons Bandhu Gorain (A-3) and Rajen Gorain (A-5) had no weapons with them or might not have assaulted the deceased but certainly 11 they were part of the team that surrounded (gheraoed) the deceased with the common intention to kill after they had an altercation with her the previous night on the subject of practicing witchcraft.”
The Court, after reviewing the evidence and witness testimonies, found no deficiencies in the case and found their testimonies to be highly reliable.
The Court held “In the light of the above clinching evidence and in the absence of any specific lacuna in the testimony of the witnesses and the documentary evidence adduced, we are of the opinion that the trial court had not committed any error in convicting and sentencing the accused persons with imprisonment of life. The conviction and sentence have rightly been affirmed by the High Court”.
The Court also noted that the appellants had served a sentence of 15 years in jail and therefore held that they were permitted to seek remission in accordance with the prevailing policy of the State which shall be considered on merits.
In light of the above, the court dismissed the appeal.
Case title: Bhaktu Gorain v. State of West Bengal
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 779;2023INSC821
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