Citing lack of evidence, a Bihar court on Monday acquitted three men sentenced to death and 20 to life imprisonment for the 1996 massacre in Bathani Tola village, in Sahar block of Bhojpur district, in which 21 people, mainly women and children, were killed by members of the upper caste Ranvir Sena.

“The high court acquitted them for lack of evidence against them in the charge sheet filed by police,” a court official said.

Two years ago, the Additional District and Sessions Judge of Ara Civil Court had pronounced the sentences against the 23 after they were convicted in the case. The village was targeted by the Ranvir Sena armed members who butchered 21 people, mostly Dalits and poor Muslims.

A police officer associated with the probe said the charges were framed against 62 members under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Arms Act.

Kishun Chaudhary, a dalit, had lodged a case against 33 people, following which police filed a charge sheet against 63, including Ranvir Sena chief Barmeshwar Singh who was declared absconder. He was later arrested.— IANS