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Bus burning case bundles missing?

By A. Subramani

CHENNAI, FEB. 17. The State Government today disclosed before the Madras High Court that bundles of a case relating to the Dharmapuri bus burning incident were missing. Incensed at the revelation, Justice V. Kanagaraj, hearing a connected contempt petition, directed the Government to furnish complete details in three days.

[Three girl students of the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University in Coimbatore were burnt alive by some party cadres in the riots that followed the conviction of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel case in February 2000.]

The loss came to light after the public prosecutor, K. Duraisamy, told Mr. Justice Kanagaraj that a related case was not being listed for hearing because the bundles could not be located. ``It is learnt that the matter could not be listed as the bundle is not readily available in the Registry and a search is going on,'' he said.

Consequently, the criminal miscellaneous petition could not be ``numbered and posted for hearing on January 29 for want of back papers.'' He prayed for the court's permission ``for reconstruction of the papers.''

Expressing serious concern at the submission, Mr. Justice Kanagaraj directed him to come out with full particulars by Monday. The case is posted for that day.

Kokilavani, Hemalatha and Gayathri were burnt alive when a mob set afire the bus in which they were travelling with their classmates.

After 20 out of the 22 persons examined as witnesses turned hostile before a Krishnagiri sessions court, N.P. Veerasamy, father of a victim, moved the High Court seeking the transfer of the case to some other district and to appoint a special public prosecutor.

In August 2003, Mr. Justice Kanagaraj ordered the transfer of trial to a Salem court. Besides ordering retrial, the judge appointed R. Srinivasan special prosecutor and passed severe strictures on the authorities concerned.

As the appointment of the special prosecutor was yet to be notified by the Government, Mr. Veerasamy initiated contempt proceedings against the Home Secretary and the Additional Superintendent of Police of the CB-CID, Coimbatore.

Meanwhile, the Government filed a petition in the High Court seeking to expunge certain observations made in the earlier order. It was admitted on December 8, 2003 and adjourned twice for filing of counter. After that it was never listed.

It was while mentioning this matter that the prosecutor informed the court that the case bundles were missing.

However, it is not clear whether the bundles comprised papers related only to the contempt proceedings and the petition seeking expunction of the remarks or they included all documents of the bus burning case itself.

`No trial'

In his contempt petition, Mr. Veerasamy submitted that even 45 months after the incident, criminal proceedings were yet to culminate in any order. Also, 15 months after the order transferring the case, the Government had not issued necessary orders.

He accused the State of deliberately delaying the trial and sought to punish the authorities concerned for ``laxity.''

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