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Sigh of relief for investigators

The accused (from left) Muniappan, Nedunchezhian, Madhu alias Ravindran, who have been awarded the death sentence. Photo: K. N. Muralidharan

The accused (from left) Muniappan, Nedunchezhian, Madhu alias Ravindran, who have been awarded the death sentence. Photo: K. N. Muralidharan  

R. Ilangovan

They had to face a hostile political climate and criticism from the judiciary and the media before tying up the loose ends of the case

SALEM: Sleuths of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the CB-CID heaved a sigh of relief after the judgment in the Dharmapuri bus burning case was pronounced here on Friday.

They had to face a hostile political climate and criticism from the judiciary and the media before tying up the loose ends of the case that stood on a strong charge sheet with unwavering eyewitnesses and clinching video clippings, photos and identification parades.

When the case was transferred to the SIT from the Dharmapuri police on February 2, 2000, the then ADSP Samudhrapandi was appointed Investigation Officer (IO).

The First Information Report (FIR) filed by the Dharmapuri police was found to be defective. "We studiously pursued the witnesses and collected all material evidences to bolster the charge sheet so that it should withstand the possible sly manoeuvres in future," Mr. Samudhrapandi told The Hindu . In fact the prosecution argued that the FIR was not genuine and hence could not be treated as a substantial piece of evidence. The court also agreed.

The SIT, with officials P. Krishnaraj and P. Arumugam assisting the initial investigation, had also arrested 31 accused, including Accused 2, 3 and 4. They were even detained under the National Security Act.

When the case was committed to the Krishnagiri court, everything went awry. Transfer of officials from SIT, particularly after the AIADMK came to power, had rendered the trial in the Krishnagiri court a "farce," as the High Court itself termed it. Only when the case was transferred to Salem was there a ray of hope for the sufferers and the investigation team.

Even at Salem it was a long ordeal against heavy odds. The appointment of an SPP was not notified for 15 months. To cap it all, a senior CB-CID official in the rank of ADSP approached the Supreme Court seeking the suspension of trials at Salem court and scrapping of the appointment of the SPP. The apex court dismissed it in the initial stage itself.

"Thus we suffered. We in fact traced all important witnesses with just one jeep, which should be preserved in a museum," said a constable, one among the bunch of young personnel who toiled hard at the field level.

Judge D. Krishna Raja came down heavily on the CB-CID team for delaying the trial. But officials changed and the trial went on smoothly. In fact, the judge in his verdict observed: "It is not the case in which the entire investigation is false and defective. Only the initial one is defective."

He even made a special mention about M. Muthuvel, Grade-I constable for procuring all documents concerning the case, thus avoiding the delay.

Mr. Samudhrapandi said the verdict was a hard-earned one for the team, which was guided by senior officers like IG Paramvir Singh and Chief Investigation Officer M. Rajaseakaran.

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