TAMIL NADU

'Govt. can't withdraw cases against Mani'

MYSORE NOV. 24. The Karnataka Cabinet decision to withdraw cases against the Periyar Dravida Kazhagham activist, Kolathur Mani, has been described as `preposterous' by the retired Deputy Superintendent of Police, Abdul Kareem, whose son was one of the police officers killed by Veerappan. Mr. Kareem sought to remind the Karnataka Government of the critical observations made by the Supreme Court during the abduction of Rajkumar, film star, two years ago.

"The Government is surrendering to the blackmail of an elusive bandit,'' he said.

Mr. Kareem was reacting to the Cabinet decision on Saturday to withdraw cases against Mani and send him to Veerappan as an emissary to negotiate the release of the former Minister, H. Nagappa, who has been held hostage for three months by the brigand.

Mr. Kareem thwarted the Government's move to release 51 TADA detenues and alleged accomplices of Veerappan on bail, under pressure from the brigand, during Mr. Rajkumar's abduction two years ago.

He sought to remind the ruling of the Supreme Court on November 7, 2000, quashing the orders of the Mysore Principal and District Sessions Judge releasing the alleged accomplices of Veerappan on bail.

Besides criticising the Government for its continued failure to nab Veerappan, the Supreme Court said:

"The S.M. Krishna Government has acted in panic and haste by dropping TADA charges and releasing the accused on bail." The judgment found fault with the Government's legal position, Mr. Kareem said.

Clear judgment

Quoting the judgment, he said it was not the Government, but the courts which should decide on the release of persons facing criminal prosecution. Referring to the Government's direction to the public prosecutors to move the courts to withdraw the cases against Mani under Section 321 of CrPC, he said the judgment in the Rajkumar case made it clear to the public prosecutors that they should apply their mind, notwithstanding the Government's instructions, before withdrawing from prosecution and see that public interest was served.

Plea to prosecutors

Keeping in mind the Supreme Court's observations, Mr. Kareem said the public prosecutors or the courts in which the cases against Mani were pending should thwart the Government's attempt to release Mani. "They need not oblige the Government,'' he said.

However, Mr. Kareem said he reserved the right to approach the Supreme Court again if the rule of law were to be circumvented and the administration of justice blocked.

"I will not hesitate to move the court again,'' he said and added that any attempt by the Government to meet the demands of the brigand was liable to be set aside by the court.

Veerappan, who had so far sent five audio cassettes since Mr. Nagappa's abduction, has been demanding that Mani be sent to him to negotiate the release of Mr. Nagappa.

In his latest cassette, he has set a 12-day ultimatum for meeting his demand. He has threatened to kill Mr. Nagappa if the Government fails to concede his demand.

Mr. Kareem, however, sought to reassure the Government that Veerappan would not harm Mr. Nagappa. "He has never harmed his hostages, let alone kill them,'' he said.

Even during Mr. Rajkumar's abduction, Veerappan kept extending the deadline for meeting his demands. Despite his repeated threats, he did not harm Mr. Rajkumar during that 108-day hostage episode.