SC voices disquiet over 2008 Kandhamal cases, orders more compensation

New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) The Supreme Court has expressed its disquiet over the closure report filed in 315 cases in the 2008 Kandhamal anti-Christian violence, while directing the Odisha government to look into these cases afresh and ordering additional compensation for deaths/injuries and damaged property.

The additional compensation will be over and above the one already granted by the Centre and the Odisha government in case of damage to property or deaths or injuries.

Besides a large number of cases wherein the police has filed the final report, a bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit also expressed concern that of the 362 cases in which trials were completed only 78 resulted in actual conviction.

Asking the Odisha government to look into all the 315 cases where police has filed the final report after investigations, Justice Lalit, while pronouncing the judgment, said: “In other words, in 315 cases, either no offence was found to have been made out or the offenders could not be detected. Such large proportion is quite disturbing.”

“The State could do well in looking into all these 315 cases and see that the offenders are brought to book,” said Justice Lalit in the judgment pronounced on Tuesday. Its text was made available on Wednesday.

The court said: “Similarly, out of 362 trials that stand completed, only 78 have resulted in conviction, which again is a matter of concern. The authorities concerned must see to it that the matters are taken up wherever acquittals were not justified on facts.”

The top court issued direction to the Odisha government while disposing of petitions by Archbishop Rachel Cheenath, Catholic Bishop Conference of India, Women’s International League for Freedom and Peace as well as Initiative for Justice, Peace and Human Rights who had sought, besides other reliefs, adequate compensation to the victims and their families.

Directing for additional compensation over and above the one already granted by the Centre and the Odisha government, the bench ordered that in case of death, the state government will pay additional compensation of Rs 3 lakh and Rs 30,000 and Rs 10,000 in case of serious and simple injury respectively.

Similarly, in case of fully damaged houses, the state government will pay additional compensation of Rs 50,000, while the Centre will pay Rs 20,000.

In case of partly damaged houses, the Odisha government will pay additional compensation of Rs 20,000 and Centre Rs 10,000.

In 2008, Kandhamal district in Odisha witnessed violence against its Christians residents, allegedly unleashed by right-wing groups after the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati on August 23 that year.

More than 50 Christians were killed and more than 1,400 houses and over 80 churches damaged in the violence.



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