Bail for Nedumaran

Published : Jan 30, 2004 00:00 IST

P. Nedumaran, when he was released from the Cuddalore jail. - T. SINGARAVELOU

P. Nedumaran, when he was released from the Cuddalore jail. - T. SINGARAVELOU

AS the 70-year-old P. Nedumaran, founder of the Tamil Nationalist Movement, stepped out of the Cuddalore Central Prison on the morning of January 8, a few hundred people, mostly belonging to Tamil organisations, raised slogans hailing him as a "great Tamil warrior". The Madras High Court had granted bail to Nedumaran on December 18 in the wake of the Supreme Court's observation two days earlier that a mere expression of sympathy or verbal support to a terrorist organisation would not attract the provisions of Section 21 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA).

The "Q" Branch of the State police had arrested Nedumaran on August 1, 2002, in Chennai under Section 21 of POTA for making a speech in support of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He was remanded to judicial custody in the Cuddalore prison. The LTTE is categorised as a terrorist organisation under POTA.

Although the High Court granted him bail in the case relating to his alleged offence under POTA, his release was delayed because two lower courts declined to grant him bail in another case. That case related to his book - Kaviya Nayagan Kittu (Epic Hero, Kittu) - on Kittu, an important LTTE leader who died in January 1993 after the Indian Navy intercepted his ship. The police filed a case against Nedumaran under Section 10 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, for writing the book. The Centre had banned the LTTE under the same Act in May 1992 after its activists assassinated former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.

Bail for Nedumaran in the "book case" was necessitated by the execution of a prisoner-on-transit warrant after his earlier arrest in the POTA case. But the Judicial Magistrate (II), Poonamalee, declined to grant him bail in the "book case". His appeal in the court of the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Chengalpattu, V. Periyakaruppiah, too was dismissed. In his order on January 5, Judge Periyakaruppiah said that since the petitioner (Nedumaran) had not respected the anticipatory bail granted to him by the High Court in the "book case" and did not appear before the lower court for expeditious disposal of the case, "the petitioner cannot be granted any bail order", especially when the case was ripe for trial. However, the Judge directed the trial court to conduct the trial speedily and dispose of the case within a month.

Nedumaran challenged this order in the Madras High Court. Justice A.K. Rajan of the High Court allowed his bail plea on January 6. K. Chandru, the senior advocate who appeared for Nedumaran, argued that no government in the country had proscribed the book on Kittu and even if prosecution was launched, incarceration of Nedumaran was not required. Chandru pointed out that the maximum sentence for the offence was only two years and Nedumaran had already spent 17 months in prison. Justice Rajan granted him conditional bail, which enabled him to walk out of the Cuddalore prison.

Totally, five cases were registered against Nedumaran during the current and previous tenures of the Jayalalithaa-led All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). He was acquitted in two cases relating to his speeches in support of the LTTE at Sembatti near Dindigul and at Tiruchendur. He has obtained bail in three others - the POTA case, the "book case" and a case relating to his speech in support of the LTTE at Dindigul.

The Supreme Court's observation that a mere expression of sympathy or verbal support to a terrorist organisation would not attract the provisions of Section 21 of POTA has given hopes to Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leaders arrested under the Act. Vaiko, its general secretary, and eight other leaders were arrested in July 2002 under Section 21 of POTA. The eight leaders have applied for bail in the High Court, which has reserved its orders. Vaiko, lodged in the Vellore Central Prison, has steadfastly declined to apply for bail. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M. Karunanidhi had urged Vaiko to apply for bail because he wants Vaiko to campaign for the "progressive front" that he has formed.

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