Madurai bench confirms life sentence to Al-Umma activists

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Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Feb 23 (UNI) The Madurai bench of Madras High Court has confirmed conviction and life sentences awarded to seven activists of Al-Umma for murdering BJP functionary P V Sridhar.

Dr P V Sridhar was waylaid by the banned Muslim fundamentalist outfit Al-Umma gang on February 2, 1999, while he was going to his home in Tiruchirapalli, and was brutally murdered.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the State Crime Branch CID had originally filed chargesheets against 13 people. However, a Fast Track Court acquitted six of the accused of all charges and convicted the remaining seven on October seven, 2003.

When the appeal came up before the Madurai bench, last evening, a division bench comprising Justice S Nagamuthu and Prabha Srideven said the prosecution had proved the charges of conspiracy, unlawful assembly, armed with deadly weapons and causing fatal injuries without any doubt.

Pointing out that the deposition of one of the prosecution witnesses, an Al-Umma member, was sufficient to prove the guilt of the convicts, the judges said, ''evidence of conspiracy was difficult to garner because conspiracy by its very nature took birth, grew and was nurtured in secrecy. So, we have to look at the evidence and clarify if the shape that it took indicated conspiracy.'' The appellants stated that the prosecution case was unbelievable, because the daughter of Dr Sridhar had deposed that the assailants were armed with knives, whereas the post-mortem report suggested that the deceased had sustained cut injuries, which could have caused only by sickles.

The Judges observed that it all would depend on the way in which the knife was used which would result either in a stab or an incised wound. ''Though she had stated that the deceased was attacked with knives, we could not expect her to meticulously and vividly explain in her evidence, whether the weapons were used for the purpose of cutting or for stabbing,'' they said.

UNI GSM DS KN1422

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