A Delhi court on Thursday pronounced the quantum of sentence in the 40-year-old Lalit Narayan Mishra murder case and sentenced all four convicts to life imprisonment.
As per reports, district court judge Vinod Goel awarded a life term to all four convicts – Ranjan Dwivedi, Santoshanand, Sudevanand and Gopalj – followers of Hindu sect Anand Marg for their role in 1975 murder of then railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra.
District Judge Vinod Goel had on December 8 held them guilty of killing Mishra.
The court passed the order after hearing the arguments on quantum of sentence during which CBI left it to its discretion whether the convicts deserved death penalty.
During the previous arguments, CBI prosecutor NK Sharma had submitted that an “undesired time” was taken in the disposal of the case but neither the prosecution nor the accused persons were responsible for it.
Sharma did not seek death penalty for the four convicts, saying the court should decide on the issue whether the case falls under the category of “rarest of rare” warranting the extreme sentence.
One of the convicts, Ranjan Dwivedi, who himself is a lawyer, told District Judge Vinod Goel that his conviction in the case was his “destiny” and there was no provision in the law of recalling the order by a trial court judge.
“I still feel I am an innocent person. I know science of ‘sanskaras’ and I do not see that you (judge) have convicted me but it was my destiny. I will not go against my conscience and will not seek mercy otherwise I would die hundred times before my death,” Dwivedi said.
Counsel, appearing for other three convicts – Santoshanand, Sudevanand and Gopalji – sought a lenient view for their clients, saying they were aged and also suffer from various ailments.
Defence counsel Firoz Ahmed submitted that the three convicts were ‘sanyasis’ and they cannot be a threat to the society in any manner, so a lenient view should be taken.
The offence of murder for which the four men have been convicted entails a minimum punishment of life imprisonment and maximum of death penalty.
The court heard the arguments on quantum of sentence despite the lawyers being on strike from the past one week.
Nearly 40 years after the then Railway Minister Lalit Narayan Mishra was killed in a blast in Bihar’s Samastipur railway station on January 2, 1975, the court on December 8 had convicted three Ananda Margas and Dwivedi for conspiring and murdering him and two others.
Those held guilty of murder in the run up to the emergency in 1975 are Santoshananda Avadhuta, 75, Sudevananda Avadhuta, 79, and Gopalji, 73, (Ananda Margas) and 66-year-old Dwivedi who was till then out on bail and was practising in different courts in Delhi.