Cuttack: The Orissa High Court on Tuesday directed the court of Additional District Judge (ADJ) at Gunupur in Rayagada district to rehear the 2016 superstition-related triple murder case.
On September 13, a division bench of Justices SK Mishra and AK Mishra had reserved its judgment on the death penalty awarded to nine persons after completing fresh scrutiny of the prosecution case with a re-examination of the statements of the informant, 11 witnesses and related documents.
On April 13, 2018, the ADJ court at Gunupur had held ten persons, including a minor, guilty of killing three members of a family – Asim Sabara, his wife Ambae and their elder daughter Ashamani – at Kitunga village under Gunupur block in the district over suspicion of practising sorcery. Terming it to be a rarest of rare case, the ADJ had then sentenced nine of them to death.
The sentence was referred to the High Court for confirmation and all the nine convicts had filed jail criminal appeal against capital punishment. The bench had taken the death reference case for hearing along with the jail criminal appeal of the convicts – Dengun Sabar, Dasunta Sabar, Aajanta Sabar, Padhantu Sabar, Dalasa Sabar, Malku Sabar, Bubuna Sabar, Lakiya Sabar and Iru Sabar.
On September 6, 2016, the convicts had allegedly dragged the three out of their house and beat them up mercilessly in a cowshed. There were branded as witches and held responsible for death of children in the village. The victims who then fell unconscious were injected pesticides and buried alive. On learning that police had been tipped off about the incident, the villagers exhumed the bodies and set them on fire the same night.
Asin’s second daughter Melita Sabar, who had witnessed the incident, was threatened with dire consequence and asked not to disclose it to anyone. She mustered courage and lodged an FIR at Putasingh police station on September 16, leading to the arrest of nine persons.