346 red sanders smugglers, and helpers, involved in the murder of two forest officials last year, produced for hearing. Keeping the human rights angle in view, the department also made elaborate arrangements for the convenience of the accused such as mobile toilets, drinking water, shade, etc.

Sri Venkateswara University’s (SVU) Tarakarama Sports Pavilion on Tuesday witnessed what is touted as the first-ever open court session in the district, as 346 people involved in the murder of two forest officials last year were produced for hearing before the magistrate.

Amidst tight security arrangements, the offenders comprising of operatives involved in red sanders smuggling, including woodcutters, coolies and smugglers, were transported from sub-jails of Nellore, Kadapa and Chittoor districts in 13 special APSRTC buses for the maiden appearance before the court.

Speaking to The Hindu, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Rajasekhara Rao and Deputy Superintendent of Police (Renigunta) B. Srinivas maintained that the session was being held at the pavilion owing to the large number of offenders.

“As it is difficult to produce all the offenders in a court, we have requested for a special open court session at the stadium. The trial would be initiated and the subsequent proceedings will be conducted through video conferences,” they added.

Keeping the human rights angle in view, the department also made elaborate arrangements for the convenience of the accused such as mobile toilets, drinking water, shade, etc. The high walls of the stadium came in handy for the officials to ensure tight security, while the entire perimeter was also cordoned off. The officials also said that the hunt was on to nab the remaining 79 operatives in the ‘most wanted’ list.

Fifth Additional Munsiff Magistrate Venkata Nagalakshmi extended the remand of the offenders for fifteen days, who were later shifted to their respective prisons.

It may be recalled that two forest officials – Sridhar (Deputy Range Officer) and David Kumar (Assistant Beat Officer), were brutally stoned to death in Seshachalam Hills December last by the operatives of red sanders smuggling. Police and forest officials organised special teams and nabbed the culprits within three days of the incident.