Criminal Appeal Nos. 127-130 of 2008 with Criminal Appeal Nos. 1632-1634 of 2010, Arising out of SLP(Crl.) Nos. 1482-1484 of 2008. Case: 1. C. Muniappan, 2. D.K. Rajendran and Ors. Vs State of Tamil Nadu. Supreme Court

Case Number:Criminal Appeal Nos. 127-130 of 2008 with Criminal Appeal Nos. 1632-1634 of 2010, Arising out of SLP(Crl.) Nos. 1482-1484 of 2008
Party Name:1. C. Muniappan, 2. D.K. Rajendran and Ors. Vs State of Tamil Nadu
Judges:G.S. Singhvi and B.S. Chauhan, JJ.
Issue:Indian Police Act, 1861 - Sections 30(A), 61; Indian Penal Code, 1860 - Sections 114, 147, 148, 149, 188, 436 and 302; Tamil Nadu Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act, 1992 - Sections 3 and 4; Criminal Procedure Code - Sections 151, 195(a)(i); Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 - Section 22
Judgement Date:August 30, 2010
Court:Supreme Court


B.S. Chauhan, J.

  1. Leave granted in Special Leave Petition (Criminal) Nos. 1482-1484 of 2008.

  2. These appeals have been preferred against the Judgment and Order dated 6.12.2007 of the High Court of Madras in Crl. Appeal Nos. 226, 266 and 267 of 2007, and Death Sentence Reference in Trial No. 1 of 2007.

  3. Facts and circumstances giving rise to these cases are that on 22.1.2000, the students of the Horticulture College and Research Centre, Periakulam, affiliated to the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore (hereinafter called the 'University'), left for an educational tour in two buses. One bus was carrying male students and the other bus was carrying 47 female students. After completing the educational tour, the students came to Paiyur, near Dharmapuri, on 1.2.2000, at about 12.00 midnight, and stayed in the Regional Agricultural Research Centre. On the next day, after visiting the research centre, they left for a tour to Hogenakkal from Dharmapuri, which was the last leg of their tour as per their revised tour programme. They visited a nursery garden on 2.2.2000 and reached Dharmapuri at 12.30 p.m. and parked their buses in front of Saravanabhavan Hotel. The students and the two teachers accompanying them went to the Saravanabhavan Hotel to take their meals and to purchase parcels of food. Some of the students remained in the bus itself.

  4. In view of naxalite movement and activities around Dharmapuri, the Deputy Superintendent of Police at Dharmapuri had promulgated a prohibitory order under Sections 30-A and 61 of the Indian Police Act, 1861, which expired on 31.1.2000, and thus, a fresh prohibitory order was issued on 31.1.2000, for fifteen days. On 2.2.2000, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Ms. J. Jayalalitha, along with four others was convicted and sentenced to undergo one year imprisonment in the Pleasant Stay Hotel, Kodailkanal, case. According to the prosecution, when the news of her conviction spread, the AIADMK party members resorted to dharnas and took out processions in Dharmapuri and compelled the shop keepers to close their shops by pelting stones. The news of conviction and sentence of the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu was being broadcast on T.V. and radio, thus, the students and teachers also came to know about it.

  5. According to the prosecution, a procession of 100 to 150 party workers having flags of AIADMK party, armed with sticks and stones passed on the roads nearby the buses, raising slogans. The girl students witnessed the procession but remained in the bus. Dr. Latha (PW.1), the teacher accompanying the students, contacted the Vice-Chancellor of the University and told the students that the Vice-Chancellor had instructed them to stay at a safe place and return to Coimbatore after the situation becomes normal. On this advice, the drivers of both the buses made an attempt to take the buses to the District Collector's office. However, the buses could not reach there because of the obstruction of the traffic on the way, as the political workers staging dharna came on the road. Mr. P. Kandasamy (PW.4), driver of bus no. TN-38- C-5550, which was carrying the girl students, moved the bus to some distance and parked it in a vacant place near an old petrol bunk. The bus carrying the boys was also moved there. The accused, along with other political workers formed an unlawful assembly indulging in a 'road roko agitation', under the leadership of D.K. Rajendran (A.1), violating the prohibitory order at Illakkiampatti, near the MGR statue on the Salem-Bangalore National Highway, prevented the free flow of traffic and caused nuisance to general public at large. They damaged the government buses having registration nos. TN-29-N-1094, TN-29-N-0543 and TN-29-N-1011 by breaking their glasses and also set fire to the three seats of one of the buses (being a town bus with Route No. 7-B).

  6. As per the Prosecution, Nedu @ Nedunchezhian (A.2), Madhu @ Ravindran (A.3) and C. Muniappan (A.4) having the common object to cause damage to the buses, left the aforesaid place and went to the motor workshop of B. Kamal (PW.86), namely "Majestic Auto Garage", and procured petrol in two plastic cans and came to the place where the bus in which the girl students were travelling was parked. It is alleged that Nedu (A.2) and Madhu (A.3) sprinkled petrol inside the bus through the first two shutters on the left-side and Nedu (A.2) lit a match stick and threw it inside the bus. Nedu (A.2) and Madhu (A.3) went towards the motor bike which was already kept ready for running by C. Muniappan (A.4) and escaped from the scene. The fire lit at the front-side of the bus spread backwards. Dr. Latha (PW.1) and Akila (PW.2) (both teachers) managed to get down from the bus from the front door along with some students. Some girl students stretched their heads and hands through the shutters and the boy students pulled them out. However, three students, namely, Kokilavani, Hemalatha and Gayathri could not escape from the burning bus. They were burnt alive inside the bus. Some of the girl students got burn injuries while getting down from the bus and some were injured while they were being pulled out through the shutters. The injured students were taken to the Government Hospital, Dharmapuri, where they were treated by Dr. K.S. Sampath (PW.30).

  7. On the same day, an FIR was lodged at about 1.30 p.m. in the police station regarding the occurrence of the incident involving the Town Bus with route no.7-B. In respect of the other incident, i.e. the Bus burning, an FIR was lodged at about 3.30 p.m. vide written complaint (Exh. P.120) and a case under Sections 147, 148, 149, 436 and 302 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (in short the 'IPC') and under Sections 3 and 4 of the Tamil Nadu Property (Prevention of Damage and Loss) Act, 1992 (in short as "TNP (PDL) Act") was registered. In the said FIR, the name of C. Muniappan (A.4) was not mentioned. A general statement was made that "some persons shouting slogans surrounded the bus and broke down the window panes" and Nedu (A.2) and Madhu (A.3) poured the petrol from the front entrance of the bus and set it on fire. As far as the damage caused to the government buses at Illakkiampatti is concerned, on 2.2.2000, Elangovan (PW.60), a Senior Assistant Engineer in the Tamil Nadu Transport Corporation, Dharmapuri, at 8.00 p.m. submitted a written complaint (Exh. P.82) under Sections 147, 148, 341, 436 and 506(ii) IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the TNP (PDL) Act.

  8. On these complaints, investigations were carried out by Ayyasamy, Inspector of Police (PW.81), and he inspected the place of occurrence at about 10.30 p.m. in the presence of witnesses Velayutham (PW.67) and Vetrivel (PW.68) and prepared an Observation Mahazar (Ex. P.107). He also prepared a rough sketch and recovered broken glass and brick pieces from the place under the Seizure Mahazar (Ex. P.109). The buses were inspected on the next day by Motor Vehicles Inspector and he prepared reports in respect of the same (Exs. P.116 to P.119).

  9. Dr. A.C. Natarajan (PW.31) conducted an autopsy on the body of Kokilavani, Dr. N. Govindaraj (PW.35) conducted an autopsy on the body of Gayathri and Dr. Rajkumar (PW.38) conducted an autopsy on the body of Hemalatha and issued Exs. P.23, P.33 and P.28, Post mortem certificates, respectively.

  10. In respect of the second incident, regarding bus no. TN- 38-C-5550, Crime No. 188 of 2000 was registered on the basis of the complaint given by Village Administrative Officer, C. Ramasundaram (PW.87). Since the officer-in-charge of police station was on court duty, Shanmugaiah, Inspector of Police (PW.116) took up the investigation. However, after two days, i.e. on 4.2.2000, Vilvaranimurugan, Inspector of Police (PW.119) took over the investigation from Shanmugaiah (PW.116). On 6.2.2000, investigation was transferred to the CBCID and R. Samuthirapandi, Additional Superintendent of Police (PW.123), became the Investigating Officer.

  11. After completing the investigation, a report under Section 173 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter called as "Cr.PC"), was filed on 28.4.2000, arraying 31 persons as accused. The case was committed to the Sessions Court, Krishnagiri, vide Order dated 25.7.2000. The Sessions Court, Krishnagiri, framed 21 charges against all accused persons vide order dated 8.10.2001 under Sections 147, 148, 149, 341, 342, 307 read with Sections 302, 114 IPC and Sections 3 and 4 TNP (PDL) Act. During the course of trial, 10 out of 11 witnesses, who had been examined, turned hostile, including C. Ramasundaram (PW.87) who had lodged the complaint in respect of second incident. Being dissatisfied and aggrieved, Veerasamy, father of one of the victims, namely, Kokilavani, approached the High Court of Madras by filing Cr. O.P. No. 23520 of 2001 under Section 407 Cr.PC seeking transfer of the trial from Krishnagiri to Coimbatore on various grounds, inter-alia, that all the accused were from the AIADMK party and were holding the party posts; most of the witnesses who had been examined had turned hostile, including the complainant C. Ramasundaram; all the accused and most of the witnesses were from the Coimbatore District and thus, they would be won over by the accused. Therefore, conduct of an impartial trial was not possible at Krishnagiri. The High Court allowed the said Transfer Petition vide order dated 22.8.2003 issuing some directions, including the appointment of the Special Public Prosecutor and to have a de-novo trial. The said order of transfer was challenged by D.K. Rajendran (A.1), by filing SLP(Crl.) No. 4678 of 2003. However, the said SLP was dismissed by this Court vide order dated 17.11.2003.

  12. The Special Public Prosecutor was appointed after filing of a contempt petition before the High Court for not complying with its order dated 22.8.2003. The State Government initiated Departmental Proceedings against the Village Administrative Officer...

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