The Madras High Court has acquitted the prime accused in a case related to the brutal caste-killing of a Dalit youth, named Shankar, for marrying a Caste Hindu girl in Udumalpet town of Tamil Nadu’s Tirupur district in 2016. The verdict came as the prosecution had failed to prove the charges of criminal conspiracy framed against him.
The broad daylight murder had sent shockwaves across the country after CCTV footage showed a gang armed with machetes attacking Shankar after he had married Kausalya. In 2017, the district court in Tirupur convicted her father B Chinnasamy on various charges, including conspiracy to kill Shankar and awarded him capital punishment.
According to the Tirupur police, Kausalya, a native of Palani in Dindigul district, married Shankar of Udumalpet, against the wishes of her parents in 2015. Though both Chinnasamy and Shankar had filed complaints and counter complaints, the issue was resolved in the police station as Kausalya wanted to live with Shankar.
After eight months, a gang attacked Shankar and Kausalya with machetes near Udumalai town bus stand on March 13, 2016. While Shankar succumbed to injuries, Kausalya survived with wounds on her head. Later, the police arrested the gang of gangsters — P Jegadeesan, M Manikandan, P Selvakumar, Kalai Tamilvaanan and Madan.
They confessed to the police that Chinnasamy, Kausalya’s mother Annalakshmi, and her paternal uncle Pandithurai had hatched a plan to kill the couple as Kausalya had married a Dalit youth. On December 12, 2017, the district court convicted the five gangsters and Chinnasamy of the murder and sentenced them to death.
However, Annalakshmi, Pandithurai and a 16-year-old relative were acquitted as the prosecution could not prove the conspiracy charges against them in the lower court.
Speaking to The Federal, special public prosecutor S Rooban said they could not provide any evidence against Annalakshmi as she had made calls only to Chinnasamy. “Making calls to her husband was not accepted to establish a conspiracy theory,” he said.
“But, we had enough evidence against Chinnasamy. The gangsters who executed the murder had made frequent calls to him. In fact, they had called Chinnasamy before and after executing the murder. The GPS data obtained from their mobile phones showed they had been in the place where Shankar was killed,” Rooban said.
According to Rooban, the gangsters had stayed in a lodge nearby the Palani temple and it was Chinnasamy who had made the booking in his name. “He had withdrawn ₹80,000 just before the murder. It could be inferred that it was to pay the henchmen and they too had confirmed that they had received the money from him,” he said.
Further, Rooban said they had also proved that the money was withdrawn from the joint account of Chinnasamy and Annalakshmi. “We had produced the bank statements,” he added. Rooban felt that the district judge was convinced with the proofs and accepted that these were enough.
How was the conspiracy disproved?
According to the Madras High Court judgement, the prosecution had shown only the evidence of the telephone contact between the gangsters and prime accused Chinnasamy before and after the crime was committed. However, it had failed to prove the chain of events to establish the conspiracy, the court felt.
The bench pointed out that the prosecution could not produce sufficient evidence to prove that Chinnasamy had booked the lodge for the stay of the gangsters. The judges also said the statements of two eye-witnesses, who saw Chinnasamy and gangsters discussing the execution of the murder near Palani temple, were doubtful.
Though the prosecution submitted the evidence of cash transaction between Chinnasamy and the gangsters, the judges did not buy it as the lawyers could not produce any CCTV footage, showing that the money had been withdrawn by Chinnasamy.
However, Special Public Prosecutor C Emalias felt that the call details, along with their location data, were enough to prove the connection. “It could be inferred from the call details. We need not even prove that cash transactions had happened. But, we had submitted enough evidence including eye-witnesses to prove the conspiracy,” he opined.
Emalias felt that even in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, there was not much evidence to prove conspiracy theory.
“We had the receipt received from the lodge, showing that Chinnasamy had booked the rooms. Since it was a small lodge, close to the temple, where they may not maintain a ledger, it was not accepted. We had also produced eye-witnesses that saw Chinnasamy visiting the lodge and speaking to the gangsters. But the court did not accept these,” he said.
Emalias is in the process of preparing a status report and opines that the case will go for an appeal before the Supreme Court.