Gokulraj murder case | Madras HC confirms life sentence, till death, imposed on eight convicts for beheading Scheduled Caste youth

Justices M.S. Ramesh and N. Anand Venkatesh say this is a case which brings out the dark side of human behaviour and focuses attention on the ugly facets of society, the caste system, bigotry and inhuman treatment of people belonging to marginalised sections

Updated - June 02, 2023 11:28 pm IST

Published - June 02, 2023 03:38 pm IST - CHENNAI

S. Yuvaraj, the prime accused in the Gokulraj murder case. File

S. Yuvaraj, the prime accused in the Gokulraj murder case. File | Photo Credit: G. Moorthy

Confirming the life sentence (till death without any remission) awarded to S. Yuvaraj (43), a caste outfit leader, and seven other convicts beheading Scheduled Caste engineering graduate V. Gokulraj in 2015, the Madras High Court on Friday, June 2, 2023 said, “This is a case which brings out the dark side of human behaviour. It focuses our attention to the ugly facets of our society: the caste system, bigotry, inhuman treatment of persons belonging to the marginalised section, et al.”

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Justices M.S. Ramesh and N. Anand Venkatesh went on to write: “Cases such as this are textbook examples of how the criminal justice system can be easily manipulated and won over by witnesses who suborn at the drop of a hat. This has virtually become the norm in high-profile cases with the added pressure of the press and social media and the technical challenges posed in proving a large body of electronic evidence.”

The Bench said, “These factors undoubtedly cast an additional burden on the judges who are tasked with the duty of deciding such cases. Despite such pressures, the judges must rise to meet these challenges and ultimately render justice within the parameters of the law.” With this prelude, it went on to confirm the conviction on the basis of a strong chain of circumstantial evidence.

According to the prosecution, the prime accused, Yuvaraj of Maaveeran Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai, and his accomplices had no prior acquaintance with Gokulraj. The assailants saw him for the first time along with a woman belonging to the Kongu Vellalar community at the Ardhanareeswarar Temple, Tiruchengode, on June 23, 2015. They suspected them to be in love with each other and therefore killed him by the end of the day.

Holding that the prosecution had clearly proved the motive behind the crime by establishing that Yuvaraj was a fanatic who had delivered public speeches against inter-caste marriages, the judges said, “While assessing evidence of this nature, judges are not expected to make their assessments sitting in ivory towers. It is imperative that the judge must be aware of the ground realities and take judicial notice of what is happening around them.”

They went on to state that the gruesome murder had been executed in a well-orchestrated manner by abducting the victim from the temple and forcing him to sign a suicide note before reaching a rail track where his head was severed and the torso was laid on the middle of the track to make it appear as a suicide. The judges said the evidence of the doctors clearly established that the death was due to homicide and not suicide.

Authoring the verdict, Justice Venkatesh said Yuvaraj absconded for nearly 100 days after the crime but was was attempting to divert the course of investigation through media interviews. “He was virtually attempting to create an impression in the minds of general public that he is a paragon of virtue and he has been falsely implicated in this case. He surrendered on November 11, 2015, and ensured it to be sensational,” the judge remarked.

Observing that the media should know its limits while reporting such crimes and not indulge in parallel investigation/trial, he wrote, “So long as the duty of conducting trials in various jurisdictions and resolution of disputes stand exclusively earmarked for the judiciary in this country, it may not be desirable, in a democratic set-up, for any other agency to arrogate to itself the role of the courts and breed confusion and lawlessness in the mind of the unsuspecting public.”

He went on to state, “The individuals, including the members of the judiciary who are subjected to calumny by the print and electronic media, have virtually no remedy since they cannot afford to fight the mighty media. Far from empowering the fourth estate to engage itself in such inquisitive ventures, the real need of the hour is to educate and enlighten the media with regard to the limit on the freedom of speech and expression.”

The verdict was delivered while the court dismissed the criminal appeals preferred by Yuvaraj, P. Arun, Kumar alias V. Sivakumar, R. Sathish Kumar, Raghu alias D. Sridhar, D. Ranjith, D. Selvaraj and S. Chandrasekharan against their conviction and life sentence. The judges partly allowed the appeal filed by two other convicts M. Prabhu and P. Giridhar and commuted their life sentence to five years of rigorous imprisonment after finding them to have only harboured the offenders.

The appeals filed by the prosecution, and the victim’s mother, V. Chitra, against the acquittal of five other accused by the trial court and another appeal filed by her to enhance the punishment for all convicts to the death sentence were dismissed by the Bench. It appreciated her senior counsel T. Lajapathi Roy, Additional Public Prosecutor A. Thiruvadi Kumar and former special public prosecutor Bhavani B. Mohan and other counsel for their enlightening arguments.

The judges concluded their 234-page judgment with the epilogue, “Right through the proceedings, we ensured that we were not swayed by any opinions expressed by the media and we were conscious that moral conviction regarding the guilt of the accused persons had no place in criminal jurisprudence and we made all attempts to get into the truth only based on the evidence that was placed before us.”

(Assistance for overcoming suicidal thoughts is available on the State’s health helpline 104, Tele-MANAS 14416 and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050)

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