Over nine years after a trial court acquitted those involved in the 2007 attack on the office of Tamil daily Dinakaran, which left three employees dead, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday sentenced nine persons, including key accused ‘Attack’ Pandi, to life imprisonment./div>
A Division Bench comprising Justices P.N. Prakash and B. Pugalendhi delivered the verdict on the appeal preferred by the CBI and a revision petition filed by the mother of one of the victims./div>
Holding the State vicariously liable, the court ordered a compensation of ₹5 lakh each to be paid to the families of the three deceased employees. The appeals were preferred against the verdict of the Principal District and Sessions court, Madurai, acquitting all the 17 accused of want of sufficient evidence.
The court said the conclusions reached by the trial judge were palpably erroneous and suffered from manifest perversity. “It is unfortunate that the trial court has abdicated its judicial responsibility to seek the truth and deployed a specious line of reasoning to arrive at the verdict of acquittal.
It convicted Deputy Superintendent of Police V. Rajaram, who had been included as an accused of failing to prevent the arsonists, under Section 217 of IPC (public servant disobeying the law to save a person from punishment) and Section 221 (intentional omission to apprehend someone). The officer was asked to be present on March 25 to be heard on the quantum of sentence.
The court said it was perplexing why senior police officers had to discuss, ruminate and deliberate over a simple act of lodging a complaint.
The court sentenced ‘Attack’ Pandi, Arogyaprabhu, Vijaya Pandi, P. Kandasamy, G. Ramiah Pandian, V. Sudhakar, Thirumurugan, I. Ruban and Malik Batcha to life imprisonment on charges of murder and five years’ rigorous imprisonment, which would run concurrently for charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Explosive Substances Act and the Tamil Nadu Public Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act and imposed a fine.
Taking note of the threat to ‘Attack’ Pandi in Madurai, the court directed that he would undergo the sentence in Palayamkottai.
In 2007, Dinakaran had carried a survey on who was the preferred choice as the political heir of then DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi. Following the publication of the survey that favored M.K. Stalin, a mob led by ‘Attack’ Pandi, allegedly a close aide of former Union Minister M.K. Alagiri, hurled petrol bombs at the newspaper’s office in Madurai.