Friday, September 30, 2011

Deccan Herald

Friday 30 September 2011 

Of 269 officers indicted, 54 died during trial
215 held guilty in TN mass rape case
Chennai, September 29, DHNS:

In an unprecedented judgment in the annals of Indian legal history, 215 government officials were on Thursday convicted for the infamous Vachathi incident in Tamil Nadu’s Dharmapuri district where tribal women were assaulted and raped.

This is perhaps the largest number of officials from police, forest and revenue departments convicted and sentenced to jail terms ranging from one to 10 years for atrocities on women during a raid for smuggled sandalwood on the remote Vachathi village.

While a total of 269 officials were charge-sheeted in the case for the violent incidents, which took place way back in 1992, 54 have died during the nearly 20-year-long trial.
All the remaining 215 accused in the mammoth case  were charged under various IPC sections, including torture and sexual abuse against tribal women, and held guilty by the Dharmapuri Principal District Judge S Kumaraguru on Thursday.

The judge handed down a maximum of seven years rigorous imprisonment to 17 forest department officials for violence, torture and rape, even as 10 of those accused were also sentenced to additional 10 years of imprisonment. The sentences are to run concurrently.

Four Indian Forest Service officials were sentenced to varying jail periods ranging from nine months to one year in the case, the investigation of which was handed over to the CBI in 1995. The convicted also included 84 state police officials, even as 150 officials from different departments have been sentenced to a two-year jail term.

Except for the 17 convicted and sentenced for torture and rape, all others were released on furnishing a personal bond. The judge gave all of them a month’s time to appeal in the Madras High Court.
The prosecution had made out the charges on 19 counts,  including offences like “causing disappearance of evidence”, “wrongful confinement” and “unlawful assembly.”
Each of the 18 RPT, 18  victims are to be paid a compensation of Rs 15,000 from the fine amount, the judge ruled.

Fact file

* Brutal assault and rape on tribals took place in Vachathi village in Dharmapuri district on June 20, 1992.
* Accused belonged to police, forest and revenue departments.
* 18 tribal women were raped and over 100 assaulted.
* Apart from rape, assault, the other charges were of atrocities against tribals
* Of 215 sentenced, 125 belong to forest department, 84 are policemen and five are revenue officials.
* Govt officials raided suspecting the villagers were hiding smuggled sandalwood.

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