Directs its Registry to take appeal on file and post it for hearing on March 22

The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday allowed a petition filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and condoned the delay of 118 days in filing an appeal against a lower court judgment acquitting 17 people, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police, from the ‘Dinakaran' newspaper office attack case.

Allowing the condone delay petition pending since July last, a Division Bench comprising Justice S. Rajeswaran and Justice G.M. Akbar Ali directed the High Court Registry to take the main appeal on file and post it for hearing on March 22. The judges accepted the explanation offered by CBI counsel S. Rozario Sundarraj that the delay was caused owing to time taken in obtaining approval from the Centre.

Three employees of the newspaper died when a mob hurled petrol bombs at its Madurai office on May 9, 2007 pursuant to publication of the results of a survey on the heir apparent of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. Seventeen persons including V.P. Pandi alias ‘Attack' Pandi, M. Murugan alias ‘Sori' Murugan and P. Thirumurugan alias ‘Kaattuvasi' Murugan were booked under various penal provisions.

Deputy Superintendent of Police V. Rajaram, who was on duty at the time of occurrence, was accused of failing to perform his duty. However, Principal District and Sessions Judge N. Retnaraj acquitted all the accused on December 9, 2009 on the ground that the prosecution had failed to prove the case beyond all reasonable doubts. Hence, the present appeal.

In an affidavit filed along with the appeal, the CBI said: “The trial court ought to have considered the evidentiary value of Prosecution Witness 1 (the newspaper's employee whose complaint led to registration of the First Information Report). Since he has turned hostile, his deposition cannot be discarded in entirety. The trial court should have elicited the truth from the portion of his evidence.”

The investigating agency also claimed that there was no need to conduct an identification parade in the present case as the video footage of the incident was constantly aired on various television channels and the photographs too were published in many newspapers. “Conducting an identification parade in this backdrop would have rendered it a farce,” the affidavit read. Pointing out that a Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in New Delhi had found the photographs and video footage to be genuine on the basis of their resolution, the CBI said: “The trial court has held that the CFSL report is not a scientific one as no scientific machinery was applied to decide whether there is tampering or not. Thus, the court has erred in discarding the opinion given by the expert.”

It also said that the trial court had failed to adopt a proactive approach in finding out the truth in line with the approach recommended by the Supreme Court in Zahira Habibullah H. Sheik Vs. State of Gujarat (2004) wherein it was stated: “The courts exist for doing justice to the persons who are affected. The trial courts cannot get swayed by abstract technicalities and close their eyes to factors which need to be positively probed and noticed.