The Jharkhand High Court on Thursday released cultural activist Jiten Marandi and three others who were sentenced to death by a Giridih court district in the Chilkari massacre case.

They had been charged for offences under 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 120B (conspiracy), 302 (murder) and some other Sections of the Indian Penal Code; Section 27 of the Arms Act; the Criminal Law Amendment Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the October 26, 2007 massacre at Chilkari of 19 persons along Anup Marandi, son of the former Chief Minister Babulal Marandi. Several others were injured. Acquitting Jiten Marandi, Manoj Rajwar, Chhatrapati Mandal and Anil Ram, Justices R. K. Merethia and D. N. Upadhayaas said the prosecution was not able to provide sufficient evidence against the accused.

After the judgment, Jiten's wife, Aparna Marandi, said: “My husband was framed and today's court order proved his innocence. The police arrested him in a case of mistaken identity. He only shares the same name with a Maoist who was involved in the crime of killing of 19 innocent people.”

Allegations false

She further claimed that the allegations made by the prosecution were false. Mr. Marandi's lawyer said: “Jiten was arrested on April 5, 2008 from Ranchi's Ratu Road. Delivering an inflammatory speech and causing road blockades were given as reasons for his arrest. He was sent to Hatwar Jail in Ranchi. Before he could get bail, the Giridih police remanded him in custody on April 12 for the Chilkhari massacre.”

According to the defence counsel, six witnesses, who were produced before the court by the police, had a criminal background and were proved to be absent from the spot during the incident.

Meanwhile, none of the 12 injured persons could identify Jiten Marandi or the other accused.

“The police was not clear when they started their hunt for Jiten Marandi. The Devri police station had sent a letter (letter no. 205/08 dated February 21, 2008) to the In-Charge at Nimiyaghat police station which asked that a search and arrest warrant be issued in the name of the accused Jiten Marandi alias Shyamlal Kisku who hails fromNimiyaghat. It is clear that instead of arresting the Jiten Marandi that police was searching for, they arrested a different Jiten Marandi,” the defence counsel added.