Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday set aside the conviction and sentence imposed on 11 persons accused of severing the head of a convict inside the Nagercoil sub-jail in 1996.

A Division Bench comprising Justice S.R. Singharavelu and Justice T. Sudanthiram ordered the release of all of them, lodged in the Palayamkottai Central Prison, unless their presence was required in any other case.

The Judges directed the Registry to despatch an advance order to the prison officials as a detailed judgement enumerating the reasons for acquittal was yet to be passed.

The appeals were directed against the conviction imposed by the Nagercoil Sessions Court on April 27, 2004. The appellants were B. Gunaseelan, M. Chandramohan, P. Kannan, T. Vijay, M. Sahayam, P. Salam Chandran, N. Essaki Rajan, M. Vellai Nagarajan, S. Suyambu, D. Mohan and K. Vasudevan. They were jailed for different terms spanning between five years and double life imprisonment.

According to the prosecution, the deceased, V. Lingam alias Muthu Lingam, had killed the brother of Gunaseelan. Hence, the latter, along with an armed gang of nearly 30 members, barged into the sub-jail and cut off the head of Lingam. In the melee, the jail warden and many other prisoners sustained cut injuries. One of the injured prisoners subsequently died in hospital.

Charge sheet

The Nesamony Nagar police had filed a charge sheet against 24 persons under Sections 141 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapons), 458 (trespassing), 342 (wrongful confinement), 460 (trespassing and causing death or grievous injury), 427 (causing damage to property), 332 (causing hurt to deter public servant from performing his duty), 307 (attempt to murder) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code and a few other provisions of the Arms Act.