Chennai, Dec 6 (UNI) The Madras High Court today confirmed the death penalty awarded to three AIADMK functionaries by a lower court in connection with the sensational Dharmapuri bus burning case, in which three girl students of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) were charred to death.
Rejecting their appeals, a Division Bench comprising Justices D Murugesan and V Periyakaruppaiah, upheld the lower court verdict and described the killing of innocent victims as a diabolical and revolting crime that warranted no lesser punishment.
''Nothing else would meet the ends of justice'', the Bench noted.
The bench also upheld the Salem Sessions Court order convicting and sentencing 25 other accused in the case to seven years Rigorous Imprisonment.
On February 2, 2000, the AIADMK workers enraged by a Special Court convicting and sentencing Party Supremo J Jayalalithaa to one year jail term in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel case, commandeered the TNAU bus, in which the girl students were returning to Coimbatore from an education tour, and set it on fire in Dharmpuri district.
The innocent girl students of the University, Kokilavani, Hemalatha and Gayathri, were trapped inside the burning bus, and were charred to death.
After a much-delayed trial, during which there were attempts to derail justice by the erstwhile AIADMK regime, during which several witnesses turned hostile, the trial was transferred from Krishnagiri court to the Salem Sessions Court.
On February 15 this year, First Additional Sessions Judge D Krishnaraja awarded the death penalty to Nedu alias Nedunchezhiyan (34), then secretary of Dharmapuri town unit of AIADMK, Madhu alias Ravindran (37), then town MGR forum functionary, and C Muniappan (45), a former panchayat chief.
Twenty-five others were sentenced to varying terms that the judge wanted to be undergone consecutively, making it a total of seven years in jail for them. All the accused appealed in the High Court.