Notice To Life Convicts in Witchcraft Murder Proposing To Impose Higher Punishment: Orissa High Court

The Orissa high court while upholding conviction of three persons for double murder on suspicion of witchcraft, has issued notice to them proposing to impose higher sentence than life imprisonment which was imposed by the Trial Court., in the case of Basanta Dehury & Ors. v. State of Odisha (JCRLA No. 37 of 2020), passed by the Division Bench of Justice Debabrata Dash and Justice Sashikanta Mishra.

Facts of the case

The appellants argued that the Trial Court erred in concluding that the prosecution had proven their accusations against them beyond a reasonable doubt by relying on the testimony of the witnesses. It was asserted that the Trial Court failed to properly consider the surrounding circumstances that emerged in the evidence and that various suspicious and questionable elements that emerged in the evidence were also neglected. However, the State argued that there is no contradiction and that, insofar as the accused people’ roles in the deaths of the victims are concerned, it has been established beyond a reasonable doubt that the appellants were the ones who delivered the fatal blows and severed the victims’ heads.


The Court carefully reviewed the informant’s deposition and rejected the appellants’ claim that her account is unreliable because she did not raise suspicion at the time that she needed assistance. The testimony of PW-3 was likewise accepted by the court (the younger daughter of the deceased). Rejecting the claims of the appellants, it was held that the girl, who was only eleven years old, was not expected to elaborate on the tit-bit role played by the accused people, especially because she had to witness the horrifying beheading of her defenseless parents. The court found merit in the prosecution’s case against the appellants after examining the aforementioned evidence, and as a result, it upheld the conviction decree issued by the Additional Sessions Judge, Keonjhar. The Court, however, questioned whether the trial court’s punishment was adequate. The Bench further ordered the Registry to immediately send a notice to the Superintendent of the District Jail in Keonjhar informing him to inform the accused persons of the reasons why the sentence imposed by the Trial Court should not be increased as it was insufficient and out of proportion to the crime they committed.

The matter is now scheduled for hearing on the issue of the appropriateness of the sentence issued on April 17, 2023.

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