High Court acquits main accused in T.N. honour killing, commutes death sentence of five others

Published : June 22, 2020 21:27 IST

Shankar and Kausalya at the time of their marriage in 2016.

A two-member Bench of the Madras High Court on June 22 acquitted the prime accused B. Chinnasamy in the case of the brutal honour killing of a Dalit youth, V. Shankar, at Udumalpet town in Tamil Nadu on March 13, 2016, for marrying his daughter Kausalya. A Sessions Court in Tiruppur had sentenced Chinnasamy and five others to death in December 2017. The High Court also set aside the death sentences of the five others and sentenced them to 25 years in prison without remission.

Besides acquitting Chinnasamy, Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and M. Nirmal Kumar also upheld the acquittal of his wife and Accused No. 2, Annalakshmi. Prosecution had charged the parents of Kausalya with hatching a conspiracy to murder Shankar for marrying their daughter despite their protests. The judges observed that the court had considered the rival submissions and perused the materials placed before it before reaching the conclusion that the charge of conspiracy against Chinnasamy and Annalakshmi was not proved. The judges ordered Chinnasamy’s release forthwith, besides returning the fine amount collected, if any, from him.

In a 311page verdict, the bench, under the Referred Trial, took up the criminal appeals by the six accused challenging the death sentence and another batch of appeals preferred by the prosecution against the acquittal of Annalakshmi and two others, including her brother P. Pandidurai. The bench held that in the light of overwhelming testimonies of the witnesses, the Accused No. 2 “did not exhibit her intention to wreck vengeance as to the inter-caste marriage between her daughter with Shankar” and, that apart, the evidence tendered by the prosecution insofar as Annalakshmi being part of a conspiracy did not help the prosecution’s case.

The court, on an independent appraisal of all the pieces of evidence and other materials, was of the considered view that there was no infirmity or illegality in reasons assigned by the trial court for her acquittal. Hence, while considering the appeal against acquittal, it said: “The view taken by the Trial Court for acquitting Annalakshmi is also a possible and plausible view and, therefore, interference at the hands of this Court in respect of acquittal of A2 is not warranted and therefore deserves dismissal.” The court confirmed the Sessions Court’s acquittal of two others, too, and thus dismissed the appeal preferred by the State.

On the plea for the modification of sentences, the court pointed out that the prosecution was unable to prove the charge of conspiracy under Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) beyond any reasonable doubt against the other five accused — P. Jagatheesan (Chinnasamy’s friend), M. Manikandan, P. Selvakumar, P. Kalaithamilvaanan alias Tamil alias Kalai, and M. Mathan alias Michael — who were sentenced to death.

It said that they were all young and had no serious bad antecedents except two who had faced non-cognisable and bailable offences. “The Court is of the considered view that there is every possibility that they would reform themselves and on their release would contribute something useful to society. Therefore, the capital sentence imposed upon them requires modification,” it felt. The High Court commuted their sentences to life imprisonment and ordered them to undergo imprisonment for a minimum period of 25 years without any remission.

On December 12, 2017, the Tiruppur Principal District and Sessions Court Judge, Alamelu Natarajan, had held eight of the 11 accused in the case guilty and awarded death sentences to six of them, including Chinnasamy. One of the accused, Stephen Dhanraj (26), was given the life sentence, while Accused No. 11, M. Manikandan (41), was given a five-year prison term. The judge also said the death sentences were subject to mandatory confirmation by the Madras High Court. The court ordered a total compensation of Rs.11,95,000 from the eight convicts to be paid to Kausalya, Shankar’s father and to the government, which incurred the legal expenses.

On March 13, 2016, an armed gang had hacked Shankar and Kausalya, who belongs to the Thevar (OBC) community, with long knives outside a shopping complex in Udumalpet in Tirupur district. While Shankar succumbed to his injuries, Kausalya sustained serious injuries. The police arrested 11 persons, including Kausalya’s parents and the assailants.

 

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