1. THE CHIEF MINISTER OF TAMILNADU,
2. THE SECRETARY TO GOVERNMENT,
Chennai 600 009.
Sub: Request for expeditious preferring of SLP before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Melavalavu Massacre case-Reg.
With great and inexplicable anguish, we make the following representation only to impress upon you to avail the final opportunity to serve the cause of the Rule of law and protection of dalit human rights.
We are shocked to learn the apathy shown by the State and its Agencies in the ‘Melavalavu massacre case’, which remains unparalleled in the history of untouchability in this country. In fact, most of us are witnesses to the communally biased, anti-dalit, lackadaisical and careless attitude exhibited by the State and its Agencies in this case and as far as we could, we extended our helping hand to the cause of the victims in the case.
1. THE BACKGROUND:
In Melavalavu Panchayat in Melur Taluk of Madurai District, the majority of the villagers belong to the dominant Kallar community, which is landed. The Dalits are in minority and most of them work as agricultural labourers in the fields of the Kallars and as such, the Dalits are economically dependent on the Kallars. Socially also, the Kallars are powerful as the Presidentship of the Melavalavu Panchayat was invariably held by the said dominant community persons.
2. THE RESERVATION :
With the introduction of reservation of posts to the Dalits for their political, social and economical empowerment by the 73rd Constitution (Amendment) Act, 1992 and the consequential enactment of the Tamilnadu Panchayats Act 1994, the post of the President of the Melavalavu Panchayat was reserved in favour of Dalits.
3. THE ELECTIONS :
Though the Dalits came forward to contest the elections in the run up for panchayat Presidentship, the elections could not be held as the said dominant community caused obstruction to the electoral process and indulged in rigging the elections. It is to be noted that Mr.Murugesan, a dalit, who contested for the post of President of Melavalavu Panchayat belonged to the DMK party. Due to threats and rigging, the election process could not be completed twice. However, the District Administration persuaded the dalits into contesting the elections, which they obliged. Finally, in December 1996, Mr.Murugesan got elected as President of the Melavalavu Panchayat.
4. THE OUTRAGE :
Despite his election as President, Mr.Murugesan could not function as such since he was restrained by the dominant community people, who detested accepting a dalit as their President. He was restrained even from entering into the office of the Panchayat.
5. THE CONSIPIRACY :
On 30.06.1997, Mr.Murugesan and other dalits went to the office of the District Collector to make representations seeking compensation to the dalits whose 3 thatched house were set on fire on 10.09.1996 in order to threaten the dalits from participating in the elections. At the Collectorate, one Manoharan belonging to the Chettiar community met them and asked them as to how they proposed to return to the village. It was replied to him that they were planning to take KNR bus for their return to village.
6. THE OCCURRENCE :
When the KNR bus in which the Mr.Murugesan and other dalits were returning to their village, near Pazhayakallukadaimedu above 2 kms. from Melavalavu, the bus was stopped by one Duraipandi (Accused No.2) from inside the bus by shouting at the driver to stop the bus. More than 20 people armed with deadly weapons under the leadership of one Ramar (A-40) surrounded the bus. Even from inside the bus, Mr.Murugesan and other dalits were brutally attacked with deadly weapons by the persons belonging to the Kallar community. The people got scattered and ran away in panic. Mr.Murugesan’s head was severed and he sustained several injuries by aruvals inflicted by a number of persons, Raja, the younger brother of Murugesan by a number of persons with deadly weapons similarly, Chelladurai, Sevugamoorthy, Mookan and Boopathi all dalits, were trying to escape the attack, got killed by the mob. Three dalits were injured in the said attack. The news of this barbaric atrocity committed on the dalits shook the entire nation.
7. THE INVESTIGATION :
Due to the public attention and the demand for taking stern action against the culprits, Mr.Subramaniam, the Dy.SP, District Crime Branch, Madurai who was entrusted with the investigation did a dedicated job collecting the materials and filed the charge sheet against the 41 persons under various sections including 302 IPC and section 3(1)(x) and 3(2)(v) of the SC and ST (POA) Act, 1989. Even before the commencement of the trial, one of the accused died of snake bite.
8. THE PRE-TRIAL BAIL:
In such a brutal massacre of 6 dalits in broad daylight, in March 1998 itself, pre-trial bail was granted to most of the accused and some of the accused were not even imposed any condition whatsoever. It was genuinely felt that Mr.Justice A.Ramamoorthy, who granted bail to the majority of the accused in the case, did so since he belonged to another sect of the same community of the accused.
It is to be noted here that the prosecution did not oppose the said bail petitions with the seriousness the matter deserved, which only led to the grant of bail to them.
9. THE SUO-MOTU PROCEEDINGS:
Shocked over the liberal grant of bail to the accused, 75 advocates addressed a memorandum to the then Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Mr.M.S.Liberhan seeking to initiate suo-motu proceedings for cancellation of the bail. Initiating the same, the matter was placed before a Division Bench, which ultimately held the petition as not maintainable as suo-motu proceedings.
In the same, the State Government pleaded against cancellation and even stated to the Court that everything in the village was peaceful and cordial and the trial could commence, suppressing the truth and distorting the facts.
10. THE SUPREME COURT’S INTERVENTION :
On being taken on appeal, the finding of the Madras High Court’s Division Bench was set aside by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 18.08.2000 holding in favour of the maintainability of the suo-motu proceedings, which directed the High Court to hear the matter afresh and pass orders on merits. Even before the Hon’ble Supreme Court the State Government took a stand which favoured the accused, which did not prove positive, fortunately (reported in R.Rathinam Vs. State  2 SCC 391).
10. THE SPECIAL PUBLIC PROSECUTOR:
Though the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 explicitly confers a right on the victims of atrocity to engage an eminent lawyer to represent their cause as Special Public Prosecutor by conducting the trial, the representations so made to the State Government were not responded positively and only when a direction petition was filed in the Hon’ble High Court, Madras and the Hon’ble Judges expressed their inclination to grant a favourable order on the petition, the State Government appointed Mr.Thirumalairajan, a Senior Advocate practicing as Special Public Prosecutor to conduct the case.
11. THE TRANSFER:
As it was genuinely felt that the conduct of the trial in Madurai would not be conducive with threats to the witnesses and others, a transfer petition was filed on behalf of the victims before the High Court, Madras, and taking into account various factors, a Division Bench transferred the case for trial from Madurai to Salem.
12. THE TRIAL :
From 02.04.2001, the trial began with the examination of the witnesses. Except a couple of them, of the 50 prosecution witnesses examined which included 11 eye witnesses and officials, all the witnesses deposed in support of the prosecution. They were also cross examined by the defence on behalf of all the accused.
13. THE RECALL OF KEY WITNESSES:
After 85 days of their examination, prosecution witnesses 1 and 3, by names Krishnan and Chinnaiya were recalled for further cross examination by the defence during which time they disowned their earlier evidence before the trial Court. It was clear that they were won over by the other side in the meantime.
14. THE JUDGEMENT:
Mr. A.R.Ramalingam the trial Judge, (later elevated as judge of the Madras High Court) on 27.06.2001, delivered a judgement convicting 17 accused for life and acquitting 23 accused. The trial judge strangely held that no conspiracy was established, no evidence was available for attracting the offences under SC & ST (POA) Act. It was further held that PWs 1 and 2 were totally unreliable. Very many deviations from law were found in the judgement which was shocking.
15. THE OPINION TO PREFER APPEAL:
Though the Special Public Prosecutor who conducted the case reportedly tendered his legal opinion to the State Government (then of the AIADMK) for preferring appeal against the acquittal etc., the State was deliberately avoiding to do so. The convicted 17 accused preferred appeals in Crl.A.Nos.803, 863 and 871 of 2001 before the High Court, Madras challenging the conviction and sentence. On behalf of the injured witnesses, the acquittal of 23 accused was challenged in Crl.R.C.No.285 of 2002 before the High Court, Madras.
16. THE SUSPENSION OF SENTENCE:
Though the earlier petitions filed by the convicted accused seeking suspension of their sentence were opposed on behalf of the victims, later they were granted suspension of sentence by the High Court shockingly giving a finding that the FIR itself was unbelievable peace of evidence.
17. THE LAWYERS’ SLP FOR CANCELLATION OF SUSPENSION:
Outraged by the same, 12 lawyers (as petitioners) preferred an SLP before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and ultimately, the suspension of sentence granted by the High Court was set aside with a direction to dispose the appeals expeditiously. Even at this stage, the State Government did not extend its helping hand to the cause of victims.
18. THE PIL FOR SPECIAL PUBLIC PROSECUTOR:
The State had specifically submitted in a criminal original petition seeking appointment of a Special Public Prosecutor to represent the State in the Criminal Appeals and other proceedings in the case that the State was of the opinion that there was no material to prefer appeal against the acquittal. At that time, a designated Senior Advocate, Mr.I.Subramanian was the State Public Prosecutor and on that basis, a Division Bench of the Madras High Court permitted him to conduct the prosecution. However, due to change in Government, he resigned and Mr.Jayakumar, who is not a designated Senior Advocate was appointed as State Public Prosecutor.
In the above situation, a PIL was moved for appointment of Mr.K.G.Kannabiran, Senior Advocate, Hyderabad to conduct the prosecution in the appeals and connected petitions, pointing out that the State Government had engaged Senior Counsel from New Delhi like Mr.K.T.S.Tulsi to oppose bail applications in the Sankaraman Murder case and Mr.Nageswara Rao another senior Counsel from Delhi to represent the prosecution before the High Court in case of single murder. Initially, the learned Chief Justice inclined to pass a favourable order. However, when the matter was adjourned for the Government Pleader to take instructions, the situation changed with the Additional Advocate General representing to the Court that the Advocate-General Mr.N.R.Chandran would appear. On the basis of which the PIL was closed.
19. THE HEARING OF CRIMINAL APPEALS:
The Division Bench comprising Mr.Justice P.Sathasivam and Mr.Justice N.Paul Vasanthakumar heard the arguments. The Advocate-General, in his arguments, submitted that the overall evidence of the prosecution witnesses pin-pointed that there was conspiracy and as a same was established was established in evidence by the prosecution, all the accused were liable to be convicted. On behalf of the victims, the Crl.R.C. was argued and the Division Bench in its judgement at para 52 observed as follows :
“52. We have already observed that even the trial Judge had found exhibit P-1 as genuine and duly approved it. Even in respect of the charge under section 3(1)(v) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, we have concluded that there is enough material to hold against all the accused. But, unfortunately, the State has not preferred appeal against the acquittal of the remaining accused and only Revisions have been field by PWs-2, 5 & 9, questioning the order of acquittal. Mr.V.Gopinath and Mr.Rathinam, by drawing our attention to the decisions reported in 1981 Crl.LJ 1016 (Ayodhya Dube v. Ram Sumer Singh) and  1 SCC 115 (Satyajit Banerjee v. State of W.B.) would contend that it is a fit a case for retrial and, if need arise, additional evidence could be recorded on retrial. It is true that in the earlier part of our judgement, we accepted the case of the prosecution in respect of conspiracy, motive and overt acts of the accused, as spoken to by the prosecution witnesses, including the charge under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. However, in the absence of appeal by the State and taking note of the fact the unfortunate incident had occurred as early as on 30.06.1997 and now, nearly 9 full years have lapsed, we are not inclined to remit the matter to the trial Court for retrial regarding the charges leveled in respect of the acquitted accused. Accordingly, Crl.R.C.No.285 of 2002 and Crl.M.P.No.9069 of 2005, filed for condonation of the delay in preferring the Crl.R.C. are liable to be dismissed.”
Against the above judgement, the convicted accused have preferred Special Leave Petitions before the Hon’ble Supreme Court and notice has been ordered on the same on 06.11.2006.
As there was some error crept in the drafting of the certified copy of the judgement, the copy was made ready only on 08.08.2006 though it was applied for on 20.04.2006, the very next day of the delivery of the judgement. This can be seen from the official seal of the High Court, Madras found on the certified copy of the judgement.As such, there may not be any uncondonable delay in filing the SLP by the State.
We would like to point out here that the sins so far committed by the successive Governments in this historically important matter can be obliterated only by acting atleast now.
It is our endeavour here to persuade the State Government to expeditiously prefer an SLP appropriately challenging the judgement, by engaging an eminent and concerned Senior Advocate for effectively assisting the Apex Court which would only be the course of serving the cause of Rule of Law without any further loss of time.
(Petition sent to The Chief Minister, The Home Secretary, Government of Tamilnadu, Chennai.)