Nearly 40 years after the then Railway Minister Lalit Narayan Mishra was killed in a bomb blast at a function at Samastipur Railway Station in Bihar, a Delhi court today convicted four persons for the charges of murder and criminal conspiracy.
District Judge (DJ) Vinod Goel convicted the four persons, Ranjan Dwivedi, Santoshananda Avadhuta, Sudevananda Avadhuta and Gopalji for various offences punishable under the IPC, including sections 302 (murder), 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon or means) and 324 (voluntarily causing hurt).
The court also held them guilty for offences punishable under the Explosive Substances Act.
“Vide separate detailed judgement, accused Ranjan Dwivedi, Santoshananda Avadhuta, Sudevananda Avadhuta and Gopalji are convicted for offences under sections 120-B, 302, 326, 324, 34 (common intention) of the IPC,” the judge said.
The court has fixed December 15 for hearing the arguments on quantum of sentence in the case. They will either get life term or death penalty. All of them were out on bail in this case.
“All these accused be taken in custody,” the court said, adding, “Now to come up for hearing on quantum of sentence on December 15.”
Lawyers for the four convicts, who were present in the court and appeared devastated, said they will appeal against the court order.
The case relates to the bomb blast at a function attended by Mishra at Samastipur Railway Station on January 2, 1975. He succumbed to injuries the next day.
Besides Mishra, two persons had died in the bomb blast while seven others were injured.
Over 200 witnesses, including 161 prosecution witnesses and more than 40 defence witnesses, were examined in the case.
Advocate Ranjan Dwivedi, who was 24-year-old at that time and the youngest among the four, was named as an accused in
the case along with four Ananda Marga group members, one of whom has died.
The charge sheet in the case was filed on November 1, 1977 in a CBI court in Patna. The case was shifted to Delhi in 1979 on a plea by the then Attorney General to the Supreme Court.
The court, which had reserved the judgement on September 12, was earlier scheduled to pronounce it on November 10 but deferred it for today as the order was not ready.
The accused had earlier approached the Supreme Court for quashing of the trial against them in the case.
The apex court had on August 17, 2012 dismissed their pleas on the ground that proceedings could not be quashed merely because they had not been concluded in the last 37 years.
Except Gopalji, all those listed in the charge sheet in the case were also named as accused in an attempt to murder case related to the bid on the life of then Chief Justice of India A N Ray in Delhi on March 20, 1975.
Santoshananda and Sudevananda were made accused in the Justice Ray case on the basis of a confessional statement of Vikram, who had turned an approver for CBI.
While Santoshananda and Sudevananda were awarded 10 years rigorous imprisonment (RI) each, Dwivedi was sentenced to four years RI by the trial court in the attempt to murder case.
They had challenged their conviction in the Justice Ray attempt to murder case on the ground that Vikram had retracted from his confession.
The Delhi High Court in August had upheld the conviction and sentence of Santoshananda and Sudevananda in the attempt to murder case but acquitted Dwivedi in the case.
During the final arguments in the L N Mishra murder case, CBI prosecutor had asked the court to consider the testimonies of two accused-turned-approvers in the case, saying their statements were important.
The prosecutor had said testimonies of Vikram and Madan Mohan Srivastava, alias Visheshwarananda, as approvers must be taken into account because they had participated in the conspiracy to kill Mishra in 1975 and they knew the entire details of the case.