Justices M.S. Ramesh and N. Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court on Thursday contemplated a visit to the Tiruchengode Arthanareeswarar temple where a Scheduled Caste youth V. Gokulraj, a victim of caste-based murder, was last seen with his assailants on June 23, 2015 before his body was found on a railway track the next day.
While hearing a batch of appeals preferred by 10 life convicts, including S. Yuvaraj of Maaveeran Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai, in the case, the judges said, since there was no eye witness to the case, the prosecution had relied heavily upon the ‘last seen theory’ to prove the guilt of the assailants through circumstantial evidence.
However, the topography sketches of the temple produced before the court do not exactly show the number of entrances and exits available in the temple and the location of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras available over there. Therefore, the judges felt they might have to pay a visit to the temple, if necessary, to study the location.
“The biggest lacunae is the topography sketch does not show where the cameras are,” Justice Ramesh said and Justice Venkatesh qualified it saying, “We can’t write orders based on emotions. It can be done only on the basis of evidence. Therefore, we have to satisfy ourselves with respect to the link between this place and the crime.”
According to the prosecution, the assailants had seen the youth along with a girl belonging to their community in the temple. They had made inquiries with them and then sent the girl to her home before abducting the youth to a railway track where his head was severed and the body was laid in between the tracks to make it appear as a suicide.
Earlier, in the day, the judges heard elaborate arguments advanced by advocate T. Lajapathi Roy representing the victim’s mother V. Chitra who had filed separate appeals urging the court to enhance the sentence imposed on the 10 convicts to capital punishment and also convict five others who had been acquitted by the trial court in March last year.
Mr. Roy made his submissions revolving around six aspects - motive, conspiracy, preparation, execution, conduct of the convicts before and after the murder and the evidence available on record - to contend that the assailants had committed a cold blooded murder after torturing the youth and made it appear as if it was a suicide.
He contended that one of the objectives of Maaveeran Dheeran Chinnamalai Gounder Peravai itself was to prevent dramatic love. Therefore, the assailants had killed the youth for having fallen in love with a girl belonging to their caste. They had coerced the youth to pen down a suicide note and also recorded a video before killing him, he said.
Stating that there could not have been ante-mortem injuries on the body if it was a suicide, the counsel said, even the doctor who performed post mortem had ruled out possibility of suicide. “It is not a mere coincidence that all the assailants belong to the same caste,” he said and urged the court to impose the maximum punishment.
After he completed his arguments, the judges decided to hear the other counsel on Friday.