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The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its ruling on a petition challenging an Orissa High Court verdict that reduced to life term the death sentence of Dara Singh, who killed Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999.The apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan reserved the verdict on the petition of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which sought restoration of Dara Singh’s death sentence.

Dara Singh has also filed a petition challenging the high court verdict and sought his discharge in the case, claiming the evidence the CBI tendered in the trial court was “weak”.

Dara Singh, whose official name is Rabindra Kumar Pal, is undergoing life sentence for the Jan 22, 1999, killings of Staines and his two children Philip and Timothy.

Staines and his two children were killed after a mob of activists belonging to saffron outfit Bajrang Dal set on fire the vehicle they were sleeping in after conducting a missionary camp in Monoharpur village in Orissa’s Keonjhar district.

Dara Singh was convicted and awarded death sentence by the trial court. However, the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the high court.In the course of the arguments, the court earlier expressed its reservations on the manner in which the investigation was conducted.At one stage, Justice Chauhan observed that “such a sensitive case was dealt in such a casual manner”.The CBI also sought the enhancement of punishment of other accused.

Counsel Sibo Shankar Misra, appearing for Dara Singh, assailed the high court verdict on the grounds that the prosecution failed to establish the case.

Misra contended that the identification parade of Dara Singh and other accused was not done as per law.

The CBI however said: “It was worst than a carnage. The hands, legs and the skull of victims was burnt.”

Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha, appearing for the CBI, assailed the high court verdict saying: “If the killings of Staines by Dara Singh and his fanatical band was not an agreement to kill them then there could be no other agreement for such a heinous act”.

“The high court was pinpricking on very small issues whereas it was to look at the larger issue,” he said.

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