New Delhi: The Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence for Dara Singh for killing Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa in 1999. Singh's accomplice, Mahendra Hembram, has also been sentenced to life in prison.
The CBI wanted the death sentence for Singh, who was linked with Hindu right-wing group Bajrang Dal.
The Staines family was burnt alive in Keonjhar. Graham Staines had worked with leprosy patients in Orissa for 30 years. He was sleeping with his sons, aged 8 and 10, in a car on their way home on a cold December night. A mob in Manoharpur village poured petrol over the Staines' car and set fire to it.
The Staines tried to escape, but a mob of about 50 people allegedly prevented them.
The Supreme Court said, "We hope Mahatma Gandhi's vision of religion playing a positive development integrating into a prosperous nation will be realized. There is no justification from interfering in someone's belief through force, conversion or false premise that one religion is better than the other."
In 2003, a trial court in Khurda convicted all 13 accused. While Dara Singh was awarded the death sentence, the others were sentenced to life in prison.
In 2005, the Orissa High Court commuted Singh's sentence to life. The High Court convicted Hembram along with Singh, and acquitted 11 others.
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