BENGALURU: The High Court acquitted all four accused in the inhuman Hangarahalli bonded labour case registered by Srirangapatna police of Mandya district. The accused had allegedly kept labourers in shackles in a stone quarry.
Five labourers Venakatachala, Nagaraju, Krishna, Venkatesha and Gopal were found chained at Chamundeshwari Stone Crushing Industry in Hangarahalli in Srirangapatna taluk and were freed by Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha in June 2000.
In relation to the case registered in June 22, 2000, the four accused were convicted by trial court in Mandya and they filed an appeal in the High Court. Justice Anand Byrareddy on January 3 allowed their appeals.
Those acquitted are Puttaswamy Gowda, proprietor of Chamundeshwari Stone Crushing Industry; his son Arun Kumar; Mahalinga, proprietor of Yogesh Industries, Mysuru; and Shivaiaha, a welder working in his industry, who allegedly helped put the labourers in shackles.
Justice Byrareddy said: “The prosecution has utterly failed to establish the motive for such confinement, when most victims and their wives and co-workers had said nothing to this effect and had turned hostile. And the prosecution has also failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt against the accused... It is contended that there is not an iota of evidence nor was it even canvassed by the state. Hence, the findings of the trial court are inexplicable and baseless.”
He also dismissed the criminal appeal filed by the state government praying maximum punishment for the four and for convicting two others who were acquitted - Seena and Muniyappa - both employees at Chamundeshwari Stone Crushing Industry.
On August 22, 2009, the trial court in Mandya convicted Gowda and Kumar imposing two years rigorous imprisonment and fined them Rs 26,000 and Rs 24,000 respectively. Shivaiah and Mahalinga were convicted with one year imprisonment and slapped with a fine of Rs 1,500 each for fettering five labourers at Gowda’s instructions. They were convicted under Sections 16 and 18 of the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976.
According to the prosecution, Gowda had kept workers with their legs tied in chains. He is said to have tied up the workers to trees and assaulted them with weapons at his stone quarry. Enquiry found that workers were in chains for almost three years and were not allowed to move about freely.