Ex-cop lauds prez decision to reject mercy plea of Veerappan aides

K Gopalakrishnan, a former SP with the Tamil Nadu police who miraculously survived the landmine blast near Palar bridge in April 1993, was apparently satisfied with the President’s decision to reject the mercy petitions of slain outlaw Veerappan’s four associates.

Twenty two people, including several policemen and forest department staff, died in the blast. President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the mercy petitions of death row convicts Simon, Gnanaprakash, “Meesai” Madhiah and Bilavendra, lodged in a Belgaum prison at present, a Tamil Nadu based rights group claimed on Wednesday. Veerappan was later gunned down in September 2004 by a Special Task Force (STF) team led by K Vijayakumar.

When Deccan Herald contacted Gopalakrishnan over the phone at his Mettur home, the retired officer was rushing a “bleeding neighbour” to the hospital. “I will speak in details tomorrow. Now, I am taking this man to the hospital,” said Gopalakrishnan.

Another former STF chief, Kalimuthu, also justified the President’s decision, stating that the attack resulted in heavy loss of police personnel. 

A Supreme Court bench comprising justices Y K Sabharwal and B N Agarwal, while enhancing the life sentence awarded by a trial court to death penalty, said in its January 2004 order: “The question of enhancement of sentence to award death penalty, can, however, be considered where the facts are such that to award any punishment less than maximum would shock the conscience of the court.”

Of the 121 people named in the FIR filed soon after the landmine blast, 50 persons were arrested and prosecuted. The four appellants were convicted by a TADA court in Mysore, which sentenced them to life. The apex court later sentenced them to death.

Gopalakrishnan, also a key prosecution witness in the trial, was apparently thrown out of the police vehicle leading the patrol team, by the impact of the blast. He sustained grievous injuries on left leg, left hand and face. He had to undergo nine surgeries and returned to duty after one-and-a-half years.

The four accused were convicted by the trial court after Gopalakrishnan identified them. The accused had apparently come looking for survivors after the blast, as Gopalakrishnan spotted them from a ditch.

The apex court had upheld his testimony as “reliable and trust-worthy and that it can safely be made the basis of conviction.” 

As uncertainty stalks the fate of the four convicts, Madhiah’s wife Thangammal was in a state of shock and grief. “My elder son Madhesh was killed by the STF and now this news is unbearable,” she said to reporters near Mettur.

“My husband has done no wrong and should be released,” she pleaded. Veerappan’s wife Muthulakshmi also defended the convicts. “They are innocent tribal people, falsely implicated in the case and the death sentence on them should be reconsidered.”

SC okays film on forest brigand

The Supreme Court on Thursday paved the way for the screening of  the trilingual film based on the life of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan after the producers agreed to pay Rs 25 lakh as compensation to his wife, reports PTI from New Delhi.

V Muthu Lakshmi, widow of the forest brigand, had filed the petition against the Madras High Court decision allowing the release of the film after the producers had agreed to cut some scenes objected by her.

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