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Graham Staines murder: Life convict Rabindra Kumar Pal moves SC for premature release

Rabindra Kumar Pal was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for burning to death Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines, and his two sons, Philip and Timothy, in 1999.

Graham Staines murder: Life convict Rabindra Kumar Pal moves SC for premature release

Photo: Supreme Court of India (IANS)

Graham Staines murder convict Rabindra Kumar Pal on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Odisha government for his premature release as per the April 19, 2022, guidelines of the state for premature release of convicts.

Rabindra Kumar Pal was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for burning to death Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines, and his two sons, Philip and Timothy, in 1999.

Rabindra Kumar Pal, his accomplice Mahender Hambram and others belonging to Bajrang Dal had burnt to death Graham Staines and his two children while they were sleeping in a station wagon at Manoharpur area of Keonjhar district.

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Rabindra Kumar Pal in his petition has stated that he is 61-year-old and has already undergone more than 24 years of actual imprisonment (without remission). He has stated that he was never released on parole.

He has stated, “The Petitioner acknowledges and deeply regrets the transgressions perpetrated more than two decades ago. In the fervour of youth, fuelled by impassioned reactions to the brutal history of India, the Pettibone’s psyche momentarily lost restraint. It is imperative for the Hon’ble Court to scrutinize not merely the actions but the underlying intent; noting that there was no personal animosity harboured towards any victim.”

On January 21, 2011, exactly 12 years after Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt to death by a mob of Hindu fanatics in Odisha’s Keonjhar district, the Supreme Court had upheld life-sentence for Ravinder Kumar Pal, who along with his accomplice Mahender Hambram, had led the crowd.

While affirming the life sentences, the top court bench of Justices P. Sathasivam (who went on to become Chief Justice of India and has since retired) and Justice B.S. Chauhan (since retired) in their judgment said it was not a “rarest of the rare case” warranting death sentence.

Justice Sathasivam went on to become the Governor of Kerala.

Speaking for the bench, Justice Sathasivam had said, “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.”

Later this paragraph was deleted from the judgment.

The Orissa High Court had modified the death sentence to life imprisonment to Ravinder Kumar Pal.

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