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The Punjab and Haryana High Court Friday commuted the death sentence awarded to five people in an honour killing case in Haryana to 20 years imprisonment, while acquitting two men for want of evidence.

 A division bench of Justices S.K. Mittal and M. Jeyapaul converted the death sentence, ordered by a sessions court in Haryana’s Karnal town March last year, to 20 years without remission in case of five men in the honour killing of a young couple, Manoj and Babli.

 It acquitted two other persons, main conspirator Ganga Raj and Satish, for want of evidence. While Satish had earlier been awarded death sentence, Ganga Raj was awarded life imprisonment.

 Coming down heavily on the Haryana Police for shoddy investigation in the matter, the court ordered disciplinary action against the investigating police officials.

 The couple, Manoj, 23, and Babli, 19, had married in 2007 against the wishes of their respective families. Manoj, who ran an electronics repair shop at Kaithal, eloped with Babli, resident of Karoran village in May 2007. They were murdered the next month.

 Suresh, brother of Babli, Rajinder and Baru Ram (both uncles) and Gurdev and Satish (both cousins) were awarded the death penalty by Additional District and Sessions Judge Vani Gopal Sharma March 30 last year.

 Except Satish, who has been acquitted by the high court, the other four will serve 20 years in prison. The high court said that their term will be without remission.

 ‘Khap panchayat’ leader Ganga Raj, who was also convicted for murder along with the other five people, was acquitted. He had been given life imprisonment by the sessions court last year.

 Mandeep Singh, a driver, who was convicted for abduction of the couple, has been given seven years in jail.

The convicted had conspired to kill the couple after a ‘khap panchayat’ decision declaring their marriage as void. Ganga Raj, a small-time political leader and Babli’s relative, was part of the ‘khap’ decision declaring their marriage as void and saying that they were brother and sister.

After chasing the couple for days, Babli’s relatives dragged them out of a Karnal-bound bus in June 2007, brutally murdered them and threw their bodies into an irrigation canal.

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