A division Bench comprising Justices VN Sinha and AK Lal absolved all 26 persons of all the charges for lack of evidence against them. The order was passed on appeals filed by the 26 persons after they were convicted by the lower court.

"We are of the view that the prosecution witnesses are not reliable and so all the convicted persons are entitled for benefit of doubt," the Bench said and directed the release of all convicted persons forthwith.

Suspected members of Ranveer Sena, the outlawed upper caste milita, had massacred 58 dalits at Laxmanpur Bathe village on December 1, 1997.

In 2010, Additional District Judge Vijay Prakash Mishra had convicted 26 persons and awarded death sentence to 16 of them and life term to the remaining 10 after finding them guilty in the mass massacre.

The convicts had subsequently filed appeals in the Patna High Court challenging the order.

(Agencies)

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