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Airport blast: HC sets aside life term for five

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI, MAY 2. A Division Bench of the Madras High Court has set aside a trial court order handing life imprisonment to five persons accused in the ``Chennai airport bomb blast case'' (in August 1984 in which 30 persons were killed).

The Bench acquitted the five persons of all the charges framed against them.

Passing orders on an appeal filed by the convicted persons against the trial court order, the High Court Bench comprising, Mr.Justice S. Jagadeesan and Mr. Justice K. Raviraja Pandian, said it was unable to hold that the prosecution evidence in support of the case, regarding the involvement of the five persons, was worthy and sound to render them guilty of various offences charged against them.

On the night of August 2, 1984 a powerful bomb exploded at the international arrival hall in the then Madras Meenambakkam airport, killing 30 persons and injuring about 25. The entire concourse was razed down and had to be rebuilt.

The police named Messrs Saravanabhavan, a Sri Lankan Tamil medical student (now a doctor), Chandrakumar, an airport constable, Loganathan and Vijayakumar, both Air Lanka workers, and Balasubramanian, a hotel and lorry owner of Madurai, as accused.

The prosecution case was that these five along with Kadiresan, Maheswaran, Thambiraja, Sri alias Uma and Vigneswara Raja, conspired to blast the Colombo airport. They made the bombs and attempted to transport them to Sri Lanka through Kadiresan. On the particular night around 10-50 p.m. two suitcases containing the bombs exploded at Chennai airport. Police said the bombs were timed to explode at Colombo airport, but as the Air Lanka flight was delayed, they went off at Meenambakkam itself.

As Kadiresan, Vigneswara Raja and Sri alias Uma, remained absconding, the case against them was split up. The police filed a chargesheet against the remaining persons. Later, Thambiraja also jumped bail. Again the case was split up to try the five remaining accused. In August 1989, the Chengalpattu Sessions Court, which conducted the trial, handed life imprisonment to the five stating that the charges of murder and those under the Explosives Act had been proved by the prosecution. Two other accused Ramu and Dandayuthapani, who turned approver were acquitted by the trial court.

The five convicted persons filed revision petitions before the High Court. The Bench said the case was essentially based on circumstantial evidence and there was no material to prove that the conspiracy as alleged to have been hatched at Madurai, had any connection to such conspiracy at Chennai; nor was there evidence to connect the accused with the conspiracy said to have been hatched at Madurai. There was also no evidence to connect or prove the procurement of explosives at Madurai for manufacturing bombs. It was Kadiresan (absconding accused) who alone could speak about the incident and he had not been apprehended or identified, the Bench said.

The evidence of the prosecution witnesses (approvers) was tainted. As such one tainted witness could not corroborate the other. Apart from these two witnesses, there was no independent witness to prove the guilt of the accused. The evidence available on record was mostly contradictory and none to connect the accused with the incident.

The common reasoning of the trial court to believe the evidence of the prosecution, was based upon the absence of motive or enmity in the minds of witnesses against the appellants. It could only be one among the various factors for consideration and not the sole ground for approving the credibility of the witnesses.

The Bench said it did not find any clinching evidence to state that the appellants had knowledge about the possession of explosive materials or their intended target. This the prosecution had not established beyond reasonable doubt before the trial court. ``We set aside the trial court order and the appellants are acquitted of all the charges framed against them,'' the Bench concluded.

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