Published: 30th October 2018
Ten years on, Madras HC acquits law students involved in the HC campus violence of 2008
A deadly clash had broken out between day scholars and the resident scholars of Dr Ambedkar Government Law College on November 11, 2008
The Madras High Court has compounded the charges against all the accused in the sensational law students clash, which rocked the entire State in 2008, from Section 148 of the IPC (rioting armed with deadly weapons) to Section 325 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt) and ordered their acquittal.
A deadly clash had broken out between day scholars and the resident scholars of Dr Ambedkar Government Law College on November 11, 2008, with the printing of posters October 30 for the celebration of Dalit leader Thevar Jayanthi as the epicentre. The hostel residents complained that the other group omitted the words Dr Ambedkar in the posters on purpose. The live telecast of the ugly and violent incident of the students attacking each other with deadly weapons had shocked the public.
Justice R Suresh Kumar ordered the acquittal while passing orders on a batch of appeals from Chithiraiselvan and others challenging an order dated January 28, 2016, of the XVII Additional Sessions Judge, on Tuesday. Initially, the students wanted the court to set aside an order of the trial court awarding three years of simple imprisonment to them.
Later, altering the prayer, their senior counsel prayed permission from the court to convert the offence under Section 148 of the IPC to that of Section 325 IPC, so that the accused may get certain relief. The judge pointed out that the non-compoundable offences cannot be compounded, as done by the Supreme Court in some cases by invoking the power under Article 142 of the Constitution. Therefore, the said course of action cannot be adopted by the court in this case.
However, he said that a perusal of the evidence adduced before the trial court in the case on hand showed that the prosecution had not conducted any identification parade for constituting the offence under Section 148. Nor the only crucial witness — college principal — had categorically stated that he was not able to identify the accused persons except one, even before the trial court. There were no eyewitnesses to substantiate the exact course of action by any particular accused using a dangerous weapon to cause hurt voluntarily on the complainants/injured.
There had been some evidence to constitute the offences — hurt or grievous hurt, as the victim/injured had taken treatment at a government hospital for a month. It is to be noted that the complainants/injured, who deposed before the trial court, had turned completely hostile.
"By taking into account all these evidentiary values as well as the circumstances of the case as discussed above, this Court is of the view that, if at all the accused are to be punished, they can only be punished either under Section 323 or under Section 325 of the IPC. Therefore, by following the course of action adopted by the Apex Court in various cases and the circumstances of the case, this court is inclined to convert the offence, under which the appellants/accused were punished, into one under Section 325 of IPC," said the judge. "Since, the offence punishable under Section 325 of IPC is a compoundable offence, to give a quietus to the litigation to reach a pragmatic solution and also by taking into account that most of the appellants are qualified lawyers as of now, since they are already enrolled as advocates, however, their practice is suspended because of the conviction, the accusedare permitted to compound the offence punishable under Section 325 of IPC."
As a result, the judge set aside the punishment given by the trial court. The fine amount already paid by the appellants need not be refunded to them. The same can be utilised by the authorities concerned for providing legal aid to the needy and poor litigants through the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services Authority, the judge added.
Before parting with the case, the judge observed that in the school and college days, universal brotherhood alone shall be the manthra among the students. Whatever animosity, ill will or hatchet emerged in day-to-day life, that should be buried then and there. "Ours is the nation of Mahatma Gandhi, who has given the greatest weapon to the mankind, which is non-violence," the judge pointed out.