Odisha court upholds death penalty of nine villagers

A local court in Odisha on Thursday upheld the death penalty imposed on nine persons, who killed three members of family by injecting them with pesticide in 2016.

The three were killed on the suspicion that they practised witchcraft. The incident took place in the remote Kitum village under the Putasingh police station limits in Rayagada district on September 9, 2016.

The incident came to light after a complaint was filed by the victim’s daughter, Milita Sabar.

Ms. Sabar said she had found her parents and elder sister tied up in a cowshed in her village. Nine fellow villagers, Dengun Sabar, Dasanta Sabar, Ajanta Sabar, Padhantu Sabar, Dalasa Sabar, Malku Sabar, Babuna Sabar, Lakiya Sabar and Iru Sabar, assaulted them after accusing them of practising witchcraft, she said in the complaint.

“After sometime, one of the assailants, Dasanta came with a syringe and injected pesticide into her parents and elder sister. They died one after another,” Ms. Sabar mentioned in the police complaint.

The assailants then buried the bodies. Next day, they consigned the bodies to flames in order to destroy evidence, said Krushna Chandra Senapati, public prosecutor.

‘Rarest of rare case’

Mr. Senapati said the Additional District Judge, Gunupur, convicted the nine persons on April 11, 2018 and handed out the death sentence for the gruesome murder. The convicted persons then moved the Orissa High Court challenging the death penalty. The High Court, however, sent the case record to the trial court for retrial.

Following the HC order, the ADJ Gunupur transferred the case to the court of the District and Sessions judge of Rayagada, Bikram Patnaik, who termed the case rarest of rare and upheld the judgment.

Odisha witnesses frequent instances of witchcraft-related violence, including murder and torture, mostly in tribal-dominated districts such as Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Rayagada, Sundargarh, Koraput and Malkangiri. The southern district of Ganjam also reports higher incidence of such violence.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 8:13:45 PM |

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