The series of acquittals in massacre cases continues unabated in Bihar.

The Patna High Court on Friday set aside the order of the lower court and acquitted all the accused in the 2009 Khagaria massacre case.

A Division Bench comprising Justices V.N. Sinha and Rajendra Kumar Mishra granted the benefit of the doubt to 14 accused persons. Of them, 10 had been sentenced to death and four others to life imprisonment by a district sessions court in February 2012.

“The appellants [accused] are granted benefit of doubt…The impugned judgment of the additional sessions judge is set aside and the appeal allowed. The appellants are in jail custody, they are directed to be released forthwith, if not wanted in any other case,” the Bench ruled.

The defence challenged the conviction by the sessions court on the ground that the prosecution did not correctly describe the manner of occurrence. Examining the testimonies, the Bench observed that certain key eye-witnesses did not inspire confidence.

The incident took place near Khagaria’s Amausi village in October 2009, where a group of Dalits shot dead 16 people of the OBC Kurmi community, including five children, over the issue of possession of a piece of agricultural land commonly known as ‘Bahiyar’.

The High Court’s ruling comes close on the heels of the Laxmanpur Bathe acquittal order of October 2013. Prior to that the High Court had also acquitted the accused persons of the Bathani tola and Nagari Bazaar massacre cases.