Patna: The Patna High court on Monday set aside the death sentence to three persons and life imprisonment to 20 others in the case relating to the Bathani Tola carnage in Bihar in July, 1996. A division bench of Justices Navniti Prasad Singh and Ashwini Kumar Singh allowed the appeals against the conviction order on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove the involvement of the appellants in the crime beyond reasonable doubt.

"The court has considered the entire material and observed that we regret that such a ghastly incident took place...the investigation was not fair in respect of the persons who perpetrated the ghastly crime," the court said.

"Apparently investigation has directed in a particular direction far from the truth and not above suspicion," the order said.

Counsel for the appellants, Akhileswar Prasad later said that the accused were acquitted because the court has set aside the conviction order.

A Bhojpur court had convicted the three last May and sentenced three persons to death and 20 others to life imprisonment for the carnage when 21 dalits were killed allegedly by the Ranvir Sena on July 11, 1996 at Bathani Tola under Sahar block in Bhojpur district.

(Agencies)