More than seven years after V. Gokulraj, a youth belonging to the Scheduled Caste, was murdered by a gang headed by S. Yuvaraj, a self-proclaimed leader of a dominant caste outfit, Justices M.S. Ramesh and Justice N. Anand Venkatesh on January 22 inspected the Tiruchengode Arthanareeswar Temple and the rail track near Pallipalayam in Namakkal district, where his body was found.
Gokulraj, hailing from Omalur in Salem district, had visited the Tiruchendgode temple with his friend Swathi, a caste Hindu, on June 23, 2015.
Following this, he was allegedly abducted by members of the caste outfit and murdered. The next day, his body was found with his head severed on the rail track near Pallipalayam in Namakkal district. Swathi has since turned a hostile witness in the case and is facing charges of perjury.
The trial in the case was shifted to the Special Court for cases booked under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Madurai, which had sentenced ten persons, including Yuvaraj of Maaveeran Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai, to life imprisonment and acquitted five others in March last year.
Meanwhile, the convicts moved the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court challenging the verdict. Gokulraj’s mother, Chitra, also appealed against the verdict, seeking capital punishment for the accused and against the acquittal of five accused persons in the case.
While hearing the appeal, the judges had decided to undertaken an inspection of the crime scene to understand the topography of the place, the number of entrances and exits, and the location of CCTV cameras in the temple.
On Sunday, Justices Ramesh and Anand Venkatesh inspected the temple from 11.40 a.m. to 1.15 p.m. They inspected all eight CCTV cameras, as well as the entrances and exits. The judges inquired about the ways to reach the temple.
Lawyers and family members from both sides (Yuvaraj and Gokulraj) came to the temple, but they were not allowed with the judges. After the inspection, the judges went to the rail track near Pallipalayam, where the victim’s body was found.
Speaking to the reporters, the victim’s lawyer Bhavani B. Mohan explained the history of the case and verdict pronounced by the trial court and said though Swathi had turned hostile in this case, it would not change the verdict.
There is sufficient evidence, including CCTV footage, forensic documents, and an interview Yuvaraj gave to a television channel. So there is no chance for a change in the verdict, Mr. Mohan opined.