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Madras High Court Upholds The Trial Court Order Convicting The Accused For The Gruesome, Caste-based Conspiracy And Murder Of A Dalit Student

Diya Pradeep ,
  09 June 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
Madras High Court
Brief :

Citation :
Crl.A(MD).No.228 of 2022

Case title: 

Yuvaraj vs. State Rep

Date of Order: 

02.06.2023

Bench: 

The Hon`ble Mr.Justice M.S.Ramesh, The Hon`ble Mr.Justice N.Anand Venkatesh

Parties:

Appellant - Yuvaraj

Respondent

1. State rep. by The Additional Superintendent of Police CBCID, Namakkal District.

2. The Inspector of Police CBCID, Namakkal District

3. Tmt.V.Chitra W/o.Venkatachalam

SUBJECT

Casteism is a mortifying reality that has been prevalent in India for centuries. Ever since the division of people into four main groups: Brahmins (priests and scholars), Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), Vaishyas (merchants and traders), and Shudras (manual laborers), the hierarchical social structure was firmly established in India, laying the foundational basis for the Caste System. There is also a fifth group, called the Dalits or "untouchables," who are considered outside the caste system and are often subjected to discrimination and marginalization.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 (PoA Act) was enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1989 to prevent the commission of atrocities against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Act seeks to prevent and punish acts of atrocities committed against members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It also seeks to provide effective protection for these communities.

Unfortunately, even the introduction of legislation as such wasn't enough to combat caste-based hatred, violence, murder, and other atrocities that occur even up to this day.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

  • Section 3(2)(v)

Indian Penal Code, 1860

  • Section 34
  • Section 149
  • Section 363
  • Section 302
  • Section 212
  • Section 260

Indian Evidence Act, 1872

  • Section 6

OVERVIEW

  • In 2011, Perumal Murughan authored a novel titled “Madhorubhagan”.
  • The novel led to many controversies among various communities and a peace committee was set up to review complaints against Perumal Murugan.
  • The author apologized unconditionally during the peace committee meetings, though the novel had already caused communal disturbances in several areas.
  • The first accused belongs to the Kongu Vellalar community and was also the founder of the association Maveeran Dheeran Chinnamalai Peravai.
  • On 07.06.2015, a meeting was organized at Konganapuram, where it was discussed that girls from the Gounder community should not fall in love or marry boys from other communities, particularly those belonging to lower castes, and those who indulge in these relationships should be punished.
  • To prove that the accused made such a speech, the prosecution relied upon the evidence of P.W-12, P.W-13, P.W-39 (who all turned hostile later on), and P.W-51.
  • The deceased Gokulraj and Swathi (P.W-4) were engineering students at KSR College, Tiruchengode.
  • The deceased Gokulraj was going to meet Swathi (P.W-4), at Tiruchengode and was informed to P.W-76, Kathiresan.
  • The first accused along with A2, A3, A8, and A9 and A10, A11, and A12 saw the deceased together with Swathi and inquired about their castes.
  • It was discovered that Gokulraj belonged to a Scheduled Caste community and Swathi belonged to the Kongu Vellalar community.
  • The deceased Gokulraj was threatened to write a suicide note by the accused and a suicide speech was videographed from the phone of A2.
  • On 23.06.2015 the deceased was gruesomely murdered after being abused, beaten, strangled, and his head severed.
  • The case was committed to Principal District and Sessions Court, Namakkal, where the convicted and sentenced A1 to A3 and A8 to A14 for life Imprisonment and a fine of Rs.5, 000/-.
  • Aggrieved by the trial court decision, seven appeals have been filed by the convicts, the victim, and the state before the Hon’ble Madras High Court.

ISSUE RAISED

  • Are the appeals against the judgment and order passed by the Additional District and Sessions Court-III (Special Judge for SC & ST Act cases), Madurai, dated 08.03.2022, convicting and sentencing A1 to A3 and A8 to A14 maintainable?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE STATE

  • The learned Additional Public Prosecutor contended that it is well established that the deceased belonged to the Scheduled Caste community through the evidence of P.W-50.
  • It was submitted that the accused persons are all closely related to each other and had the same attitude as A1 against the Scheduled Caste community. Hence, the court had made an erroneous decision in acquitting A4 to A7 and A15 without taking into account the effect of Section 8 (b) of the SC & ST Act.
  • The counsel urged that the motive for the crime has been established through P.W-12 and P.W-13 concerning the meeting conducted at Karur on 07.06.2015.
  • It was asserted that the accused persons tried to create a fake theory by forcing the deceased to write a suicide note and talk in a suicide video. It was established that the handwriting found in the note was the handwriting of the deceased. Similarly, upon analyzing the video, it was found to be taken by threatening the deceased, which is clear from the report marked as Ex.P-152.
  • The counsel finally submitted that the strength of the prosecution case is the scientific evidence available through electronic evidence, Call Details Records, handwriting experts' opinions, DNA reports, histopathological reports, and entomology reports. These reports and pieces of evidence establish the involvement of the accused persons in the deceased's murder.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE ACCUSED

  • Mr.Gopalakrishna Lakshmana Raju, Mr. A.Ramesh, Mr.ARL.Sundaresan, Mr.S.Ashok Kumar, Mr.N.Anandha Padmanabhan, and Mr.R.Navaneethaakrishna appeared on behalf of the accused.
  • The counsels contended that when the dead body was found, not a single witness mentioned any of the accused persons were seen with the deceased.
  • It was urged that the case was mostly based on circumstantial evidence and there was no motive proven by the prosecution.
  • Counsels asserted that there were no witnesses who spoke up about what A1 had said in his speech at the meeting.
  • The counsel further pointed out that the last seen theory can be applied only if there is proximity at the place and time after the deceased was seen in the company of the accused persons and the incident. However, there is no evidence of the accused persons' involvement in the deceased's murder.
  • Due to the contradicting evidence of P.W-36, P.W-37, P.W-75, P.W-84, and P.W-99, even the place of murder is highly questionable.
  • According to the counsels, the deceased's injuries could also be caused by several trains passing over him on the tracks starting on 23.06.2015 till the next day.
  • It was also pleaded by the counsels that the offense under the SC & ST Act must fail since it is submitted that the accused persons did not know that the deceased belonged to the Scheduled Caste community.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS

  • The Madras High Court upheld the sentence of life imprisonment, against A1 to A3 and A8 to A12, for the rest of the convict’s life without entitlement to remission.
  • The court found no mistake in the trial court finding that the case was a homicide as many ante mortem injuries like breaking of the ribs, contusion, and swelling of the scrotum indicate that the victim was subjected to physical violence. There was also no indication of grease or oil in the clothes recovered from the body of the deceased. This is yet another strong indication that the deceased was not run over by a train.
  • The motive behind the crime as observed by this court is caste hatred and caste pride amongst the accused that belong to the Kongu Vellalar community. This is proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt that A1 was actively propagating that women belonging to the Gounder community should not have love affairs with persons belonging to the Scheduled Caste community.
  • The bench viewed that the suicide video and the suicide note can be considered as aggravating evidence against the accused persons which formed part of the conspiracy.
  • The court ruled that it is essential that courts act swiftly upon those portions of the evidence that are creditworthy. These portions can be used in light of the other evidence available on record in a country where witnesses can turn hostile at any moment. In some cases, the attitude of discarding the evidence of hostile witnesses can lead to a derailment of justice.
  • The court also analyzed the scope of section 6 of the Evidence Act. The rule of res gestae embodied in Section 6 is an exception to the rule of hearsay evidence. It was stated that if the statement is made simultaneously with the act which constitutes the offense or immediately after, it will be regarded as a material fact. The court held that it may not resort to the principle of res gestae in this case.

CONCLUSION

The Indian Constitution prohibits caste discrimination and provides affirmative action programs for Dalits and other disadvantaged groups. However, it is not easy to eliminate centuries-old beliefs of discrimination, inequality, and exclusion of individuals based on caste, inculcated in people's minds. Cases like the one at hand remind us how the fight to tackle casteism is still ongoing. The unapologetic attitude of all the accused in the present case reveals just how deep-rooted Dalit hatred is among the upper caste in India. The appalling murder of Gokulraj, a Dalit engineering student who had several hopes and dreams, would be hoped to have opened the eyes of many to strive away from any act of discrimination of any kind, to be better humans and act with affinity and compassion towards one another regardless of their caste, gender, sex, religion, place of birth, etc.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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