On January 12, 1967, M.G. Ramachandran and co-actor M.R. Radha had been rushed to hospital with bullet injuries.
On February 27, the police filed a chargesheet accusing Radha of a murder attempt on MGR, and a suicide bid. The trial was to follow.
M.R. Radha was apprehensive that the newly-elected DMK government would exert influence and deny him fair trial. He approached the Supreme Court to transfer the case to a court outside Madras State.
However, following the assurances of Chief Minister C.N. Annadurai and education minister Nedunchezhian, that the party in power would not ‘exert influence or power’, Radha withdrew his court transfer plea.
Meanwhile, on March 23, MGR complained of pain in his throat and was admitted to the GH. X-rays revealed the bullet lodged in his vertebra had moved from its original position. Doctors quickly operated upon him and removed the bullet, but MGR’s voice was impaired.
The trial commenced in the Sessions Court, Madras, on August 1. The prosecution wanted to prove that Radha, motivated by political animosity, professional jealousy and personal prejudice, visited MGR with the intention to murder him.
On the other hand, Radha’s defence counsel tried to establish that the prosecution had ‘failed to prove the charges and what happened was in the nature of an accident in the course of a struggle.’ This was not easy, but the triad of S. Mohan Kumaramangalam, N.T. Vanamamalai and N. Natarajan that argued for Radha put forward some sharp questions.
The prosecution led by P.R. Gokulakrishnan, who later became High Court judge, summoned many witnesses to establish that Radha was under severe financial difficulty. For instance, they summoned S.A. Nataraja Chetti, a cloth merchant who knew Radha for 10 years and got him to depose that Radha had purchased goods worth about Rs. 37,600 but paid just Rs. 1,001. He had to file three suits in the High Court to recover the balance, Chetti said.
Next, they tried to link his financial difficulties with his political views. Radha, who supported Dravida Kazhagam (DK), was portrayed as a person with extreme views against MGR, a prominent member of DMK. R. Subramaniam, a Tamil junior reporter with the Police Shorthand Bureau, recalled from his notes that Radha, in his speech at the DK conference held on January 8, in Madras, urged party members to ‘take direct action’ and said it was ‘not enough to be in possession of knives.’
The four-page document titled Ennudaiya mudivu (‘my end’ or ‘my decision’), purportedly given by Radha to the Saidapet police on January 12, was an important piece of evidence. In that, he allegedly explained his intentions ‘to destroy a few of those who were abetting Aryam’ and that he ‘was ready to head this move.’
Radha was ‘in a desperate mood and wanted to show himself as a martyr by putting an end to his life’ and ‘escape his creditors,’ was the conclusion.
Defence counsel argued that many who had deposed against Radha were tutored, and denied that Radha wrote Ennudaiya mudivu. It was strange that the police had handed MGR’s blood-stained clothes to his family without examining them, they said.
If the police had examined the clothes, they would have detected Radha’s blood splattered on them, the defence said. In short, they rejected the motives attributed by the prosecution and argued that the essence of ‘the matter was who shot whom.’
Dr. K.C.B. Gopalakrishnan, professor of forensic medicine at Madras Medical College, examined the two bullets extracted from Radha’s body and the one extracted from MGR’s. His study confirmed the three bullets had come from the same gun. The question to the police was from which gun were the bullets fired.
A.V. Subramanian, the firearms expert who was an important witness, deposed that MGR and Radha owned guns that were designed to fire identical cartridges. What was important were the markings on the cartridges, he said. After studying the cartridges, Subramanian identified that the bullets were fired from Radha’s gun.
Defence counsel tried to deflate this point by highlighting that Subramanian did not use micro-photographs. The fact remains that Radha took a loaded weapon to MGR’s house and never explained why he did so, the prosecution countered. MGR’s gun, collected from his house by the police, was unloaded, they said.
On October 22, the court, after hearing both sides, said it would deliver the judgment on November 4 (The Hindu which had been reporting the trial continuously was shut between October 25 and November 24 because of a bonus dispute. It missed out on the November 4 judgement, but recalled its summary later when it resumed functioning.)
The Sessions Court found Radha guilty for attempted murder and for violating the Arms Act. The licence of Radha’s revolver had expired on January 26, 1964.
Radha was sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment. He quickly filed an appeal in the High Court. After a long wait, on April 24, 1968, the Court rejected Radha’s appeal and confirmed his sentence. If MGR held any grudge against Radha, “he would not have allowed him to his house, and having allowed him to come, he would not have thought of shooting him in his own house exposing himself to the danger of being apprehended. I am not satisfied that M.G. Ramachandran had any grudge against the appellant so as to kill him,” the Court said.
Radha rushed to the Supreme Court. Though the Court rejected the appeal, it reduced his sentence on humanitarian grounds. Radha was 57 years old and had a large family to take care of, the Court reasoned on May 2, 1969, and reduced his sentence to five years.
On April 29, 1971, the DMK government released M.R. Radha one month ahead of the scheduled date. In all, Radha served four years and three months in jail.