More than two decades after the alleged assault on forest officials in Vachathi in Dharmapuri district, the Madras High Court on Thursday quashed a charge sheet filed against villagers.

Allowing petitions by M.Perumal and 104 others seeking to quash the proceedings against them, Justice G.M.Akbar Ali said, “Though the charge sheet has been filed, I have no hesitation to hold that the entire proceedings is attended with mala fide and no purpose would be served if the proceedings are allowed to be continued and that too, after twenty years of the alleged incident.”

For the last two decades, the petitioners were dragged to court on a complaint which was obviously obtained and registered only after the atrocities in Vachathi village, Mr. Justice Akbar Ali said.

Last year, as many as 269 forest, police and revenue officials were found guilty of committing atrocities on the villagers of Vachathi. The CBI had filed the charge sheet against the officials in 1996 and the trial court delivered its verdict last year. Their appeal is pending before the High Court.

The present case is that forest officials were threatened and attacked by villagers during a raid in the Thombukkal reserve forest in June 1992. Based on a complaint by the Assistant Conservator of Forests, Harur, a case was registered against 105 persons of Vachathi. The charge sheet was filed before the Judicial Magistrate, Harur, in 1999 for various alleged offences, including attempt to murder, and under the Arms Act.

The petitioners’ counsel said the entire case against the villagers was false. It had been foisted only to divert public attention from the atrocities committed against the poor villagers by police/forest officials.

Mr.Justice Akbar Ali said in the case registered against 105 persons, 75 persons were women. In the statements of many witnesses, the names of male members alone were mentioned. Except the vague statement that the village women assaulted officials, there was no legal evidence against them. On this point alone, the proceedings against the petitioners were to be quashed.

Petitioners were also victims of atrocity by forest officials. More than 300 persons were taken to the police station and kept under illegal custody and only thereafter the case had been registered.

More than 75 women were included without any basis and even in the complaint, names of seven persons were shown for the alleged overt act, but 14 persons were named in the FIR.