Orissa HC Frees Nine Murder Convicts After 21 Years

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Cuttack: Nine persons convicted for murder have been finally acquitted by the Orissa High Court after 21 years.

The nine, including prime accused Kamarami Rama, were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of one Kamarami Nanda of Erbanpalli village near Kalimela in Malkangiri district by a court on May 31, 1999. However, the High Court found “material contradiction” in a witness’s statement and set them free earlier this week.

Case History

According to the case records, the nine had attacked Nanda with arrows at his paddy field on the evening of September 11, 1997. Nanda had succumbed to his injuries on the spot. His minor daughter was also present during the attack.

Following this, the Malkangiri Additional District and Sessions Judge Court had convicted and sentenced them to life imprisonment on May 31, 1999. The conviction was based on the evidence of the deceased’s 10-year-old daughter.

The same year, the convicts had challenged the lower court’s order in the HC.

Though they were granted bail in 2000, their criminal appeal had been pending since 1999.

Judgment Overturned

On examining the case records, the HC found that the trial court had convicted Rama along with eight others on the evidence of a child witness in which there was “material contradiction”.

“It transpires that the evidence of child witness is not free from material contradiction. Her credibility is doubtful. She did not know the Odia language for which an interpreter was appointed, but there is no material preserved in the lower court record that the questions put to her to test competency were also undertaken through the process of interpreter. As the evidence is not cogent and clear, the child witness is found wholly unreliable. The conviction based upon such testimony is not sustainable in the eye of law,” a bench of Justices SK Mishra and AK Mishra ruled on Monday.

“In the result, the conviction of the appellants and sentence passed there on vide judgment on May 31, 1999 by the Additional District and Sessions Judge, Malkangiri is hereby set aside. The accused persons are acquitted and set at liberty,” the bench ordered.

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