The Supreme Court on Tuesday acquitted six people who were given the death sentence for alleged murder and rape, Live Law reported. A bench comprising Justices AK Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah also ordered the Maharashtra government to pay Rs 5 lakh compensation to each of them.

Justice MR Shah, while reading out the verdict, said the accused were made to spend 16 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit. The bench also ordered an investigation into the case and a separate inquiry into the false implication. The court has asked the state’s chief secretary to conduct an inquiry and submit a report.

The bench gave the state government three months to identify such officials responsible for “failure of a prosecution case, on account of sheer negligence or because of culpable lapses” and take departmental action against them if they are in service, reported The Indian Express.

Ankush Maruti Shinde, Rajyappa Shinde, Raju Mhasu Shinde and three others were held guilty of gang rape and killing five members of a family during a robbery in June 2003 in Maharashtra’s Jalna district, according to News18. A trial court in Nashik had sentenced Ankush, Rajyappa and Raju to death, and the Bombay High Court confirmed their punishment in 2007. The three others held guilty were sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 2009, a Supreme Court bench dismissed the appeals filed by the three people whose death sentences were confirmed and sentenced the other three to death sentence as well. “The murders were not only cruel, brutal but were diabolic,” the top court had then said.

In 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed review petitions filed by three accused. In 2016, the three accused, whose review petitions were dismissed in 2009, filed applications to reopen review petitions.

In October 2018, a three-judge bench recalled the 2009 judgment and the appeals were restored.