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Bus burning case: court directive to investigating agency

By R. Ilangovan

SALEM, DEC. 6. Annoyed at the inordinate delay in notifying in the gazette the appointment of a special public prosecutor in the Dharmapuri bus burning case, the Salem First Additional District Sessions Court has directed officials of the Special Investigation Team of the CB-CID to ask the Tamil Nadu Government to fulfil its "necessary obligations" so that the trial can be conducted without further delay.

The Judge, D. Krishnaraja, asked the officials today to "take up" the issue with their "higher-ups" and inform the court of the developments at the next hearing on January 21. He wanted all formalities completed by then. The CB-CID officials, C. Murugeswaran, SP, and G. Rajendran, Additional SP, informed the court that the investigating agency had been submitting the "progress reports" to the Government periodically. The observations of the court would be placed before their higher officials.

Highly-placed sources here said the High Court had despatched five "D.O" letters on the issue of notification to the Home Department, which is yet to react. The Special Public Prosecutor, R. Srinivasan, told The Hindu that he could not appear for the case "till today" as his posting by the Madras High Court, made some 14 months ago, was yet to be notified in the gazette.

"The pay details and other administrative necessities can be worked out only after the gazette notification," he said. He had even suggested the name of an Additional Public Prosecutor to assist him.

Admitting that the police had handed over the case files, Mr. Srinivasan said he was still at a loss to understand the reasons behind the delay in issuing the notification.

The bus burning case assumed significance when Justice V. Kanagaraj of the Madras High Court, while passing orders on the petition filed by N. P. Veerasamy, father of Kokilavani, one of the three girl students of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University who was burnt alive by a mob on February 2, 2000 near Dharmapuri following the conviction of the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel case, scrapped the trial conducted in a Krishnagiri court and ordered fresh proceedings in a Salem court.

`Trial, an eyewash'

Mr. Justice Kanagaraj called the trial in the Krishnagiri court a "colossal failure and eyewash" and directed the Inspector-General to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the then Additional Superintendent of Police for "permitting the prosecution witnesses to be tampered with freely" [All 22 witnesses turned hostile in the Krishnagiri court]. The judge while asking the IG to monitor the trial also replaced the SPP, V. Krishnamurthy. But legal experts say the delay in notifying the appointment of the SPP and the reluctance to trace the key witnesses, the students who have since then finished their courses and left the campus, raised serious doubts in the minds of the public.

"All the 31 accused were brought and taken back for the last 12-14 months just for adjournments."

When contacted, Mr. Veerasamy said the delay was painful for his family. "We have lost our only daughter in the gruesome incident. I have asked my lawyer to bring the matter to the High Court's knowledge once again."

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