The Principal District and Sessions Court here on Thursday convicted eight police personnel and sentenced them to undergo imprisonment ranging from six months to 10 years in a custodial death case at the Paramakudi town police station in December 2002.
Principal District Judge W. Sathasivam awarded the maximum of 10 years rigorous imprisonment (RI) to five of the eight accused, holding them guilty under Sections 306 (abetment of suicide), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 220 (illegal detention), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 323 (causing simple injuries) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The judge said the prosecution had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Karuppi (50), a servant maid hailing from Kattuparamakudi, had committed suicide in the lock up on the night of November 30, 2002 by hanging, after five days of illegal detention.
The accused, in a bid to cover up the “lock up death,” removed the body from the women’s cell and hung it in a VHF tower behind the station to give an impression that she had committed suicide unable to bear the humiliation after she was suspected in the theft case and on being let off after a day's interrogation, the judge said.
Those held guilty by the court included M. Sahul Hameed (59), the then Inspector of Police and who retired as Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) at Sattur a day after he was placed under suspension.
N. Kathiresan (64) was sentenced to 10 years RI under Section 306, three years RI under Section 201, seven years RI under Section 220 and one year simple imprisonment under Section 342 of IPC. He has retired as Sub Inspector of Police at Karuppayoorani in Madurai.
The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on Sahul Hameed and directed that the amount be given to the husband of the victim as compensation. In default, he should undergo two years RI. Kathiresan should pay a fine of Rs 10,000 to the government and, in default, should undergo two months SI.
V. Rajaram (53), Special Sub-Inspector of Police Tirumangalam Taluk police station, now under suspension; K. Subramaniam (60) and P. Karunanidhi (61), who retired as head constable in Paramakudi town police station, were sentenced to undergo 10 years RI under Section 306 (34), seven years RI under Section 220, and one-year simple imprisonment under Section 342 and six months SI under Section 323 of IPC. S. Irudayaraj (62), who retired as Sub-Inspector of Police, Ramanathapuram after suspension, was sentenced to undergo seven years RI under 220, three years RI under 201 and one year SI under section 342. A Arjunan (59), who retired as HC in Paramakudi DSP office after suspension, got six months SI under Section 202 of IPC.
N. Rengachari (47), serving as HC in Emaneswaram, was sentenced to three years RI under Section 201 and six months SI under Section 202 of IPC. All the sentences would go concurrently, the judge said.
The last two accused were released on bail, while others were lodged in Madurai prison. The case was about to be closed as a case of suicide when human right activists protested against the death and petitioned the district administration for a fair investigation.
Following this, the then Ramanathapuram Sub-Collector Asish Chatterjee conducted an enquiry and found A1 and A2 guilty.
The case took a new turn when People's Watch moved a petition in Madras High court in September 2008 and Justice K. N. Basha ordered a CB-CID probe into the case. The CB CID had arraigned six other policemen as accused in the case.
Advocate S. J. Sheik Ibrahim of People's Watch, who assisted the prosecution in the case, hailed it as a landmark judgment. “It will serve as a deterrent to the erring police personnel,” he said. Public Prosecutor C. K. Venkatesan appeared for the prosecution.