HC upholds acquittal of accused in Kambalapalli Dalit carnage

HC upholds acquittal of accused in Kambalapalli Dalit carnage

State's criminal appeal dismissed as witnesses turned hostile

The High Court on Thursday upheld a trial court order acquitting 32 people accused of massacring Dalits at Kambalapalli on March 11, 2000.

Seven Dalits were brutally burnt alive by people from upper castes at Kambalapalli village in Chintamani taluk, then part of the undivided Kolar district. 

Dismissing a criminal appeal by the State government challenging the trial court order of December 4, 2006, a division bench comprising Justices Mohan Shantanagowdar and C R Kumaraswamy acquitted the accused N Narasimhappa and others as the witnesses turned hostile.

The bench, however, observed: “This is the most unfortunate case. Seven people have lost their lives and their family members were injured. The crime is committed because of the caste rivalry. It is disheartening to note that despite such a ghastly crime, none of the witnesses, including father, mother, brother and sister of the deceased, supported the case of prosecution. Unfortunately, absolutely no material, much less legal material, is found on record to corroborate the case of prosecution.”

The state, in its appeal, contended that of the total 91 witnesses only 56 evidences were recorded. “Only 56 witness have been recorded in a case involving death of several Dalits.

So many witnesses, including the investigating officer and the doctor, have been dropped. Some witnesses turned hostile, giving different version. No step has been taken to confront the history given in the wound certificates.”

In the additional grounds submitted to the Court, Special Public Prosecutor H S Chandramouli cited the Best Bakery case of Gujarat where the witnesses had turned hostile and the Supreme Court had held that the presiding officer of the court is not a tape recorder and cannot be a mute spectator. 

“In the instant case, too, the witnesses had turned hostile, (but) neither the investigating officer nor the court took any initiative to ascertain the real cause behind it,” Chandramouli added.

Stating that the court ought to have safeguarded the interest of entire case while administering justice, he had sought re-trial of the case. The bench rejected the submission and observed: “Merely because a few unimportant witnesses are not examined, the court cannot come to the aid of prosecution by giving opportunity for recording the additional evidence.

The additional evidence cannot be permitted to be recorded as per the whims and fancies of the prosecution. We find that the prosecuting agency has tried its best before the trial court by examining all the eyewitnesses who were alive as well as witnesses of recovery of mahzar, inquest mahzar and panchnama of scene of the offence.” 

What happened? 

On March 11, 2000, following an assault by the people of Reddy community, Shankarappa and Narasappa, two Dalits, had lodged a complaint with Kencharalahalli Police. Enraged by this, the accused waited at the Kambalapalli bus stop for the complainants and their sons who were on their way to village. 

When Sriramappa, Anjanappa, Shankarappa and Narasimhappa got down from the bus, the accused allegedly assaulted them with sharp and blunt weapons.

 When the victims took shelter in three houses belonging to Venkatappa, Chikappananna and Guddi Yamanna, the accused set the houses on fire and seven persons were burnt alive. The victims were identified as Ramakka, Sriramappa, Anjanappa, Papamma, Subbanna, Narasappa and Kunti Papanna.