Special Court imposes life term on 27 convicts in Kachanatham caste murder case

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3 Scheduled Caste villagers were hacked to death in 2018 for refusal to present dominant caste members with temple honour

3 Scheduled Caste villagers were hacked to death in 2018 for refusal to present dominant caste members with temple honour

The Special Court for Exclusive Trial of Cases under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in Sivaganga on Friday imposed life sentence on 27 convicts involved in the murder of three Scheduled Caste villagers at Kachanatham in Sivaganga district in 2018.

On May 28, 2018, a group of persons belonging to a dominant community attacked Scheduled Caste villagers with deadly weapons. The assailants were enraged that the members of the Scheduled Caste had failed to present them temple honours and were sitting cross-legged in their presence.

K. Arumugam, A. Shanmuganathan and V. Chandrasekhar were hacked to death and Dhanasekaran, who sustained injuries, died of health complications a year later.

TIMELINE by TH Graphics Team

Special Court judge G. Muthukumaran, who convicted 27 accused persons on August 1, pronounced the sentence in the open court.

In the instant case, the members of the dominant Agamudayar community was enraged that the Pallars (Devendra Kula Velalar) did not present them ‘kalanji’ (honours) of the Karuppansamy temple, as was the practice earlier. The discontinuation of presenting ‘kalanji’, the judge said in his view, “certainly amounts to detachment of brotherhood and a kind of discrimination on the other community people”. Though refusal of ‘kalanji’ would have caused an unhidden scar on the accused persons, and “indeed it would have provoked their nerves”, the judge said, “civilised man shall think in a civilised manner and should not have acted barbarically.”

The judge, in his order, observed, “Law does not uphold any particular caste. It only deters discrimination based on caste. The strength of our nation is living in unity. Every one shall avoid chest-thumping of their caste pride. Political organisations promoting caste feeling to [should] be banned.”

Life sentence

The judge explained why he did not award capital punishment. “Though hacking three persons brutally cannot be viewed lightly, but, without taking the steps to reform the accused and bring them into the mainstream, taking 27 more lives by hanging will be viewed as more horrible by the civilised society,” he noted.

“In the footsteps of Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, the court is of the view that unless the act committed is against the safety and security of the nation or the case is one involving rape, in all other cases, the offenders must be given an opportunity to reform in prison and return to the social mainstream. The duty of a nation is not only to punish the wrongdoer but also to reform its citizens and that part cannot be derelicted by the State,” Mr. Muthukumaran held.

Though the nature of the offence, the gravity of the offence, the manner in which it was carried out were weighed in favour of the victims, since the root cause of the problem was the refusal of the temple honours by members of the Pallar community to those of the Agamudayar and the offence was carried out at provocation, and the provocation was provided by the victim’s side and most of the accused were held vicariously liable for the act of the others for the reason of their being members of the unlawful assembly and considering that some of the accused were senior citizens, women and some also had children, the court felt that this case did not fit into the category of the rarest of rare cases to merit the death penalty. Therefore, the court decided to impose imprisonment for life, the judge said.

A total of 33 persons, including four juveniles, were named as accused. One person is absconding and one person died during the trial. They were booked for offences under Sections of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Indian Penal Code.

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