KNOW: In 1987, when he was 84, Brij Bihari went on a killing spree. All his life, he had cherished one dream: to be mahant of Maharajganj's Jagannath temple. Towards that end, he had lived a life of celibacy, remained a staunch vegetarian, prayed every day. But when that didn't happen, in ripe old age, he plotted to kill. Four people were dead when he was through.

Until Friday, Bihari, now 108 years old as per prison records, had been incarcerated in Gorakhpur jail from the time of his arrest. At 7.15pm, the country's oldest prisoner was freed.

He was shifted to Gorakhpur district hospital a few days ago when he fell critically ill and doctors said his pulse rate was sinking.

Since his conviction along with 15 others in December 2009, Bihari had been alternating between the jail and district hospitals, getting treated for one ailment or another. Mindful of his age and on humanitarian grounds, jail authorities put him on permanent hospital duty.

In October 2010, the office of Maharajganj's district magistrate sent a clemency petition to the Uttar Pradesh governor for setting Bihari free.

On May 26 this year, Bihari and 10 others held for the four murders were granted bail by the Allahabad high court. But there was the issue of who would bail him out. His closest relatives, his nephews, were also in jail for the same crime. On Friday, Avnish Pandey, the son of his jailed nephew Ghanshyam Pandey, furnished the bail bond, with help from two locals, and ensured the old man's freedom.

Ahead of his release, Bihari told TOI his mind still wandered to June 15, 1987. Bihari's target was Bhagwant Pandey's son Ramanujdas, mahant of the Jagannath temple at the time.

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India's oldest inmate Brij Bihari Pandey freed at 108

A convicted murderer, who was India's oldest inmate, has been released from prison at the age of 108.

Brij Bihari Pandey, a Hindu priest, was serving a life sentence for the murder of four people in 1987, when he was 84.

Officials at Gorakhpur jail in Uttar Pradesh state say Mr Bihari, who requires regular hospital visits, was freed on humanitarian grounds.

As he is unable to walk, relatives carried him from prison to a waiting car.

"It was getting difficult to take care of a 108-year-old prisoner," said jail Supt SK Sharma.
"We moved an application for his release and the court accepted it."

In 1987, Mr Bihari and 15 others - many of them his nephews and family members - killed four people over the appointment of a rival as chief priest of a Hindu temple.

After a trial lasting more than two decades he was sentenced in 2009 but had to be frequently rushed to hospital and was mostly bed-ridden.

As he was carried from the jail, Mr Bihari hugged fellow inmates, who placed a garland of flowers on him.

Prison officials said he received the garland with a broad smile and said: "God is great. Thank you."

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