Dara Singh, also known as Rabindra Pal Singh, a 59-year-old Bajrang Dal activist serving life imprisonment in three different cases, has had his plea dismissed by an Odisha court.
On 22 January 1999, Singh and co-accused Mahendra Hembram were found guilty of burning alive Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his young boys while sleeping in a van outside a church in Odisha's Keonjhar district.
Singh also received a life sentence for the murder of Seikh Rahaman, a Muslim garment seller in Mayurbhanj district, whom he beat with an axe and eventually burned alive for refusing to give him Chanda (religious contribution) on 26 August 1999.
On September 2, the same year, Singh led a violent mob attack in Jambani village, Mayurbhanj district, on Father Arul Doss.
On 10 January 2022, Singh petitioned the Odisha High Court for relief, claiming that he had already served 21 years in prison and that the punishment should be recognized as a life sentence due to his lengthy confinement.
His appeal was denied by the high court, which was made up of Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Judge B. P. Routray, who observed, "There is no merit in the said submission."
The bench said that “keeping in view the nature of the assault, the brutality associated therewith and the circumstances of the crime where no prior enmity existed, and the victim was unarmed and defenseless, there is no case made out for any leniency as far as the sentence is concerned.”
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocesan official, Father Dibakar Parichha, expressed gratitude to the judiciary.
“We wholeheartedly appreciate and welcome the step taken by the Orissa High Court because what Singh has done is a heinous crime that should be condemned by all sections of the society and should not be entertained by any court,” he told the UCA News.
According to Father Parichha, who is assisting victims of the greatest anti-Christian riots in Odisha's Kandhamal, Singh is supported by political groups, particularly the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Best place for people like Singh is behind bars…. The priest went on to say, “He is a danger to society.”
Singh was sentenced to death by a trial court in 2003, but the Odisha High Court mitigated it to a life sentence two years later. The 59-year-old is currently being held in a jail in Keonjhar district.