Three women from Tuticorin district got their sons, who had been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in a murder case, released by proving they were minors at the time of commission of the crime in 1997. The sentence had been confirmed by the High Court last year.

S. Chinnathai (57), K. Velammal (64) and V. Chinnathai (52) had filed habeas corpus petitions before a Division Bench of the Madras High Court here.

Allowing the petitions, the Bench, comprising Justices P. Murgesen and Raja Elango, directed prison authorities to release the three forthwith unless their presence was required in any other case. Ordering a fresh trial before a Juvenile Justice Court at this point of time was not necessary.

Detention illegal

In their affidavits, the women stated that their sons ought not to have been lodged in prison. Their detention was illegal.

When the matter came up for hearing on December 4, 2009, the Division Bench had directed the Additional District Judge-cum-Chief Judicial Magistrate in Tuticorin to conduct a detailed enquiry and file a report within six weeks.

The report filed on January 12 concluded that two of the convicts were 17 years old and the other was 16 years on the date of the crime.

The conclusion was arrived at by examining documentary evidences such as school certificates and oral evidences adduced by relatives.

Deposing before the enquiry officer, the petitioners said they had mistakenly omitted to inform the trial court about the age of their wards because they were illiterates.

Their counsel P. Ramasamy said that the lawyers who conducted the trial as well the appeal before the High Court had failed to take note of the age of the convicts.

The trio were among eight persons convicted on July 31, 2001 for murdering a person owing to enmity between them over canvassing of votes for rival candidates in the 1996 Assembly elections.