New Delhi: The Supreme Court, while upholding life imprisonment for Dara Singh and Mahendra Hembram, main accused in the killing of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in Orissa's Koenjhar district in January 1999, also came down heavily on Christian missionaries for indulging in forceful conversions.
The bench of justices P Sathasivam and BS Chauhan observed that there cannot be any justification for interference in someone's belief while decrying forceful conversions.
While delivering the verdict in the murder case on Friday the court observed that investigations reveal that Staines was involved in conversions and there are materials to suggest that the missionaries were indulging in forceful conversion in the area.
Dara Singh's lawyer SS Mishra said that the missionaries were indulging in forceful conversions and his client just wanted to threaten them and not kill Staines.
"There are materials which suggest that forceful conversion was there. However, so far as the material for conviction is concerned Supreme Court maintained the judgement of the High Court. There is no direct evidence, no one had seen crime done by accused. It appears that they had gone to threaten and teach them a lesson and not kill Staines," said Mishra.
Staines and his two sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6) were burnt to death while they were sleeping inside a van outside a church at Manoharpur village in Koenjhar district of Orissa on January 22, 1999 by Dara Singh and Mahendra Hembram.
Both Singh and Hembram have been sentenced to life in the case.