The Madras High Court has externed 13 persons convicted for the murder of six Dalits who got elected to local panchayat in upper caste dominated Melavalavu village in Madurai in 1996, These convicts have now been released prematurely by the Tamil Nadu Government.
The Dalits, including panchayat president Murugesan of the DMK, were hacked to death when they were returning to the village from Madurai. They were pulled out of a bus and hacked to death in broad day light.
Admitting a public litigation petition challenging the Government Order granting remission of sentence, a division of the Madurai branch of the Madras High Court on Monday held these were no ordinary murders, but were meant to terrorise the Dalits from contesting elections in local body elections in villages dominated by upper castes.
Justices S Vaidyanathan and N Anand Venkatesh in their interim order directed that they should not enter Melavalavu village till the disposal of the PIL filed by M Rathinam. They said stay in Vellore and surrender their passports, if any, to Madurai Superintendent of Police and give their mobile phone numbers to Vellore district police and report to them twice a month .
The court ordered their externment on the ground that their return to Melavalavu might create law and order problem. Dismissing the contention of the Government that the premature of release of three convicts in the same case under the GO issued in January 2018 on the occasion of the birth anniversary of MGR, did not create any law and order problem, the judges said two wrongs cannot make a right.
The court also rejected the contention of the State that the same 13 convicts had stayed in the village when they let out on parole. The court said Melavalavu cannot be treated as another case of regular murders. It was done to terrorise the Dalits from contesting panchayat elections in villages where the upper castes were predominant. The elected members were killed to set a precedent, the court said.
Expressing its displeasure over remission of sentence of the prisoners whose conviction had been upheld by the Supreme Court, the court asked what safety would be there for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes if such convicts were released.
Ordering notice to the released convicts and to the Home Secretary, the court adjourned the hearing to January 6, 2020. While 44 people were arraigned in the case, only 17 were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court. Of these, one died during trial and three others were released as part of Anna centenary celebrations by the DMK government in 2008. The other 13 were released by the AIADMK Government recently as part of the MGR centenary celebrations.