Stung by widespread criticism, the Supreme Court on Tuesday expunged the portion of its judgment which said that Australian missionary Graham Staines was killed in Orissa in 1999 by Hindu bigot Dara Singh and his accomplice in order to teach him a lesson for converting tribals to Christianity. The court expunged the portion of its judgment, which was delivered on January 21, on its own initiative. The Apex Court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan said that it was deleting some portion of its judgment and substituting the same with other formulations.
Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam deleted the portion that read, “In the case on hand, though Graham Staines and his two minor sons were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a station wagon at Manoharpur, the intention was to teach a lesson to Graham Staines about his religious activities, namely, converting poor tribals to Christianity. All these aspects have been correctly appreciated by the High Court and modified the sentence of death into life imprisonment with which we concur.”
This paragraph was substituted by the sentence, “However, more than 12 years have elapsed since the act was committed, and we are of the opinion that the life sentence awarded by the High Court need not be enhanced in view of the factual position discussed in the earlier paras.’
Dr. Abraham Mathai, Vice-Chairman, State Minorities Commission and President Indian Christian Voice and Gen Secy, All India Christian Council said, “The Supreme Court has acknowledged the outrage of the Christian community in regards to observations in the judgment. The judges said though they didn’t intend to but the meaning could be misconstrued to be implied otherwise and could be used out of context and therefore expunged it. It may be recalled that the Indian Christian Voice and the All India Christian Council had expressed apprehensions at these remarks.”
The court also expunged the portion of a sentence that read, “It is undisputed that there is no justification for interfering in someone’s belief by way of ‘use of force’, provocation, conversion and incitement or upon a flawed premise that one religion is better than the other.” A portion of this sentence was deleted and replaced by the sentence, “There is no justification for interfering in someone’s religious belief by any means.”
Staines and his two minor sons Philip (10) and Timothy (6) were burnt to death while they were sleeping in a station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district on January 22, 1999.
Ravinder Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh was awarded death sentence by the special Central Bureau of Investigation court. The sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Orissa High Court. The High Court also confirmed the life imprisonment awarded to his co-convict Mahender Hambram by the trial court. The Apex Court upheld the High Court verdict in its January 21 judgment.
The judges said though they didn’t intend to but the meaning could be misconstrued to be implied otherwise and could be used out of context and therefore expunged it. It may be recalled that the Indian Christian Voice and the All India Christian Council had expressed apprehensions at these remarks