Chennai: More than 18 years after three AIADMK cadres set ablaze a bus charring to death three girl students of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University to protest the conviction of their leader J Jayalalithaa, the Tamil Nadu Government on Monday granted them pardon and set them free.
Nedunchezhian, Ravindran and Muniappan, all belonging to the ruling party’s Dharmapuri district unit, were serving life sentences in the Vellore Central Prison after the Supreme Court had two years ago commuted their death warrants on a review petition.
On February 2, 2000, Jayalalithaa, then out of power, was convicted by a Special Court in Chennai to undergo one year imprisonment after the judge found her guilty of corruption charges in allowing the construction of the Pleasant Stay Hotel in Kodaikanal violating rules. Her conviction had triggered violence during which the three accused stopped a college bus on which 44 students and two professors were travelling during a tour and set fire to it. Three girls Hemalatha, Kokilavani and Gayathri were trapped and charred to death.
The three accused in the case were awarded death penalty by the trial court, which was upheld by the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court. In 2016, the SC on a review petition remitted the sentence to life imprisonment.In February the AIADMK Government decided to release the three along with 1,800 others, who had served long prison terms, to mark the birth centenary of the party founder and former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran (MGR).
However, Governor Banwarilal Purohit took time to decide each remission on a case by case basis and rejected the recommendation to prematurely release the three convicts. The State, however, resent the file to the Governor following which he accepted its recommendation.
Relatives of the victims, however, strongly objected to their release. “There is no justice. Our pain has only doubled now. They have decided to let out men who killed my daughter,” said Kokilavani”s father Veeerasamy in a choked voice.