HIGH COURT OVERTURNS LOWER COURT ACQUITTAL IN WEST SIKKIM DOUBLE-MURDER CASE
‘COLD BLOODED AND HEARTLESS’ NATURE OF CRIME RENDERS DUO ‘UNDERSERVING OF ANY LENIENCY’
GANGTOK, 30 April: The High Court of Sikkim has upheld the State’s appeal against the Sessions Court’s [South and West] acquittal of Rakesh “Spiderman” Rai and Tenzing Tamang in the West Sikkim double murder of 2003 and in a judgment pronounced on 20 April, 2012, quashed the acquittal and sentenced the accused to rigorous imprisonment for life and also fined them Rs. 20,000 each. The High Court has however upheld the acquittal of co-accused Praveen Subba and Abhishek Rai for want of any evidence against them. It may be clarified here that although the case was one of double-murder, the trial in Sikkim was only with regard to the murder committed in Sikkim [of Sonam Dadul Bhutia]. The second murder, although related to this incident, was carried out in Siiguri and will hence be tried there.
The case relates to the 27 November 2003 murders of Sonam Dadul Bhutia and Bina Subba by the accused. While Sonam Dadul Bhutia was battered to death with near Liching basti on the Dentam-Pelling Road [about 1 km from the BB Lall Suspension Bridge at Dentam] on 27 November, while the dead body of Bina Subba was recovered from near Coronation Bridge on NH 31A nearly a month later on 24 December 2003. Interestingly, the recovery of this dead body followed from Rakesh Rai’s alleged statement to the police while he was being escorted to Siliguri by Gangtok Police in connection with the recovery of some goods he had allegedly stolen and fenced.
Following his statement and recovery of the second dead body, he was booked for murder.
The Sessions Court acquitted the duo in May 2011 convinced that the prosecution had failed to build a strong enough case, had presented contradictory witness statements, failed to prove motive [behind the murders].
Overturning his acquittal, the two judge High Court bench of Chief Justice Permod Kholi and Judge SP Wangdi, observed in its judgment that: “We are rather inclined to accept that the Learned Trial Court has ignored admissible evidence which has given rise to compelling and substantial reason for this Court to interfere with the impugned judgment of the acquittal of the Respondents.”
The 124-page judgment order also addresses the failure of the prosecution to prove motive against the Respondents, expressing the view that “this deficiency by itself is not sufficient to weaken the case”. The High Court judgment adds that the “circumstances established by evidence are sufficient… to hold that the Respondents are guilty of the offence”.
“It is a settled position of law that motive is not an ingredient for any offence under Section 302 IPC,” the judgment points out further.
While deciding on the sentence which the conviction should attract, the judgment delves into substantial detail, recording: “As regards the sentence, on careful consideration of the entire facts and circumstances, we find that although the accused persons are quite young, they appear to be habitual offenders particularly, the Respondent No. 1, Rakesh Rai. The cold blooded and heartless manner in which the deceased was killed by them, in our view, renders them undeserving of any leniency. This is compounded by the fact that they have proved themselves to be undesirable influence to the young juvenile accused persons who have since been convicted by the Juvenile Justice Board.”
“Considering all these, interest of justice would be met if the Respondents-convicts are sentenced to undergo rigorous imprisonment for life and to pay a fine of Rs. 20,000 each. Failure to pay the fine shall entail further imprisonment of six months against each of them.”
The High Court is convinced that the two convicts, accompanied by two juveniles, had come across Sonam Dadu Bhutia and Bina Subba at Changay near Dentam on 27 November 2011 and that there was an altercation between them which ended with the duo now convicted of murder, attacking Sonam Dadul Bhutia with a tyre wrench and battering him to death on the spot. They then fled to Siliguri taking Bina Subba with them and later murdering her as well.
The circumstances, the judgment observes, “stand proved beyond any reasonable doubt and those circumstances form a complete chain that unerringly leads to the only conclusion and none other than the Respondents [Rakesh Rai and Tenzing Tamang] along with the two juvenile convicts committed the murder of Sonam Dadul Bhutia in the evening of 27-11-2003”.