The judge, however, turned down CBI counsel's appeal that it was a 'rarest of rare' case and deserved capital punishment.
The judge, Amar Kanti Acharya, who held the accused guilty yesterday, announced the quantum of punishment in a packed court room around 2.40 pm. Apart from giving life imprisonment, the judge has also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on both the accused. Unhappy with the judgement of the trial court, advocates of both the accused said they would move higher courts challenging the lower court's verdict.
Earlier in the day, Dutta and Malik were produced before the court at around 1.50 pm amid tight police security. The CBI advocate, Partha Tapaswi, urged the judge to consider the murder to be a "rarest of rare" case. His appeal was however turned down by the judge who observed that the murder had taken place because of personal reason and it can't be called a political murder.
Apprehending law and order troubles, prohibitory orders under section 144 CrPC were imposed around Chandannagar sub-divisional court premises. Hundreds of supporters, both from the Trinamool Congress and the CPI-M, had come to Chandernagore to hear the court proceeding. They were separated through barricades and not allowed to enter court premises.
Trinamul Congress supporters, who were demanding capital punishment for the accused before the pronouncement of the quantum of punishment, took out a rally after the punishment was pronounced.
Both Dutta and Malik were taken to the Chandannagar Sub-divisional correctional home after being sentenced to life imprisonment. When asked about his comment on punishment, Dutta said he was not involved in the crime. "I'm not guilty", shouted Dutta when he was being taken out of the court.
Describing the judgment as a "gross miscarriage of justice", Dutta's advocate, Arindam Bhattacharjee, said: "We would move higher court against the verdict of the trial court. It was a case of acquittal because there was no direct evidence against Dutta.
We will fight the case in higher court."
Malik's advocate, Kishor Mondal, also claimed that there was no direct evidence against his client. "The verdict was given on the basis of circumstantial evidence. There was no direct evidence against Malik. We will challenge the judgment in higher court."
The Trinamool Congress-backed Singur Krishi Jami Raksha Committee (SKJRC) and the victim's family in Singur welcomed the judgment.
"We are happy to hear that the murderers were given life imprisonment. We are also thankful to the CBI for handling the case in a right way. The officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in fact tried to establish that my daughter had actually committed suicide. The chief minister should step down," Manoranjan Malik, Tapasi's father,said.
Tapasi's mother, Molina, however, said she expected a "more stringent punishment" against the "murderers". "We got the justice because the case was handled by the CBI. But we would have been more happy had both of them been hanged," she said.
Several hundred villagers, under the banner of SKJRC, took out a rally from Bajemelia after the news of punishment reached Singur. The rally ended at Singur bazaar where SKJRC leaders addressed a crowd.