Supreme Court grants bail to another “Innocent Seven”

By Matters of India Reporter

New Delhi, July 23, 2019: The Supreme Court of India on July 23 granted bail to yet another of seven people, who have been languishing in jail for more than ten years in connection with the murder of a Hindu religious leader in Odisha, eastern India.

Bijaya Sanaseth is the second of the seven to get bail from the country’s apex court in Lakshmanananda (also spelt Laxmananda) Saraswati case.

The Supreme Court read: “Considering the fact that the accused-appellant (Bijay Kumar Sanaseth s/o salei Sanaseth) had undergone ten years of his sentence and taking an overview of the matter, we are of the opinion that the above mentioned accused appellant should be released on bail on such conditions as may be imposed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Phulbani in ST No16/18of 2013-2009. We order accordingly.

“The order dated 04.12.2018 passed by the High Court is set aside and the appeals accordingly granted.”

The bail plea was moved by Advocate Colin Gonsalves, who handles the 2008 Odisha riots cases in the apex court, said Father Dibya Parichcha, a priest lawyer who handles the cases locally.

The court has issued notices to the Odisha government on the bail application for the five remaining in the jail, Father Parichcha told Matters India on July 23.

Earlier on May 9, the Supreme Court granted bail to the first of the seven, Gornath Chalanseth, on an application led by ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) legal team. He was released on May 20 from Phulbani jail in Kandhamal.

The seven, including mentally challenged Munda Badamajhi, were convicted to life imprisonment for the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in the night of August 23, 2008, when Hindus celebrated Janmashtami, the birth of Lord Krishna.

Their bail pleas had been twice rejected by the Odisha High Court, Cuttack, in December 2018.

Human rights activists, social workers, journalists and Church leaders have contested their convictions saying as it was based on a conspiracy theory which lacked evidence and authenticity.

The murder of the Hindu religious leader and his associates in a Hindu religious center in Kandhamal triggered unprecedented violence that lasted four months and claimed nearly 100 lives and rendered more than 56,000 homeless.

The Kandhamal district of Odisha had been experiencing sectarian tension for decades saw first organized violence during Christmas in 2007.

The five remaining in the jail are Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Buddhadev Nayak, Durjo Sunamajhi, Munda Badamajhi and Sanatan Badamajhi.

Thousands have been praying for them for more than a decade.

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