HYDERABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the verdict of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh High Court acquitting 56 accused in the sensational Tsundur Dalit massacre case.
On April 22 this year, a division bench of the High Court acquitted the 56 on the ground that the prosecution had failed to prove their offence. According to the prosecution, eight Dalits were hacked to death in broad daylight on August 6, 1991 after being chased by a mob of over 400 people along the bund of an irrigation canal at Tsundur in Guntur district.
The country’s first-ever special court, which was set up for trying a case under the SC/STs Prevention of (Atrocities) Act, 1989, delivered the judgment in August 2007, by sentencing 21 accused in the case to life imprisonment and 35 others to one-year rigorous imprisonment and a penalty of Rs 2,000 to each.
The special court acquitted 123 of the 179 accused. In the case of 41 accused, the court did not find any evidence and in the case of 62 released them on benefit of doubt. The other 20 were let off due to omission of evidence or having only single witnesses.
While acquitting the 56 accused, the High Court bench pointed out that the prosecution failed to prove the exact time of the death of the deceased and the place of occurrence and the identity of the persons who attacked them.
Following a massive protest from various Dalit Organisations, the then Andhra Pradesh government filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s judgment acquitting all the accused.
A special team of legal counsels comprising MN Rao, A Ramesh, V Raghunath, Uday Sagar, Bojja Tarakam and V Raghunath was appointed as special prosecutors to argue the case before the apex court.
The government, in its appeal, contended that the High Court had failed to appreciate the grounds on which the special court relied to convict the guilty. Certain simple lapses on the part of the prosecution in probing the cases like this of high magnitude may be overlooked in the interest of justice, it argued. The apex court stayed all further proceedings in the cases relating to Tsundur massacre, including the appeals by the guilty before the High Court.