Special Correspondent

His house at Chidambaram was ransacked by a mob

  • Damage caused due to "culpable inaction" by police
  • 60-day deadline set for paying the compensation

    CHENNAI: Holding the State responsible for the police failure in preventing loss of properties during a riot at Chidambaram, the Madras High Court has asked the Government to pay Rs. 7 lakh as compensation to a lawyer, whose house was ransacked by a mob.

    The damage caused was on account of "culpable inaction" by the police, a Division Bench comprising Justice Prafulla Kumar Misra and Justice J.A.K. Sampath Kumar said. The Government must compensate K. Venkataraman and his wife S. Hemamalini, also an advocate, within 60 days.

    The matter pertains to an all-party meeting conducted at Chidambaram on July 28, 1998, to condemn the murder of Palanivelu, a Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam functionary.

    Since Mr. Venkataraman is a leading criminal lawyer in the region, it was believed that he would defend the prime suspects.

    Hence, a mob broke into his house, gathered household articles and vehicles, and set them ablaze.

    Fire service personnel, who attempted to douse the flames, were prevented from discharging their duty. Some firemen were injured.

    The petitioners said the police chose not to act because Mr. Venkataraman, as a Special Public Prosecutor, was responsible for the conviction of seven police officers in two high-profile cases. When about 25,000 persons gathered at the venue, the petitioners had contacted the police, but in vain.

    Edwin Prabakar, Government Advocate, denied the allegations and said compensation could not be claimed from the Government for the damage caused by a mob. The police were not directly responsible. The State had immunity from being proceeded against as the incident took place during the process of maintenance of law and order.

    The Bench, however, said the damage caused was not on account of any positive action by the State while maintaining law and order... The damage was caused on account of culpable inaction on the part of the police in taking adequate measures. The police did not bother to take adequate steps to prevent damage to the properties of the petitioners. "In our opinion, the State can be held responsible and directed to pay compensation."

    They awarded Rs. 7 lakh as compensation while holding that the Rs. 15-lakh claim was not backed by documents and materials.