New Delhi: A Salem court on Thursday held three AIADMK functionaries and 20 other people guilty for the sensational Dharmapuri bus burning incident of 2000 in which three students of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University had been burnt alive in a mob violence following the conviction of AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa in the Kodaikanal Pleasant Stay Hotel case.
"Out of 30 accused, 28 have been proven guilty and whatever they have done, it's been proved beyond doubt. Shortly, there'll be an argument on the terms of conviction," says DIG Salem, K Rajendran.
The three AIADMK workers were found guilty of murder charges while 25 others were convicted of lesser charges. After the three AIADMK pleaded innocence, the judge ordered cancellation of their bail and directed the police to take them into custody.
The court, however, acquitted two other accused for lack of concrete evidence to establish their involvement. The court will deliver its verdict on the term of punishment for the guilty on Friday.
A near 30-minute video clipping of the bus burning incident shot by a Dharmapuri-based private photographer was one of prime piece of evidence that established the prosecution's case at the court of the Salem First Additional District Sessions Judge D. Krishna Raja.
The clipping showed the burning bus and the girls crying for help and their friends' frantic efforts to save them. It also showed a white police jeep that did not stop while passing through the spot.
The verdict in the case comes after a six-year-long trial. In 2003, the Madras High Court had scrapped the on-going trial in a Krishnagiri court and ordered a retrial in a Salem court following a petition that said the sensational bus burning case was going the Best Bakery way at the Krishnagiri court.
The bus burning incident had occurred on February 2, 2000 when an AIADMK mob had set fire to a bus carrying Tamil Nadu Agricultural University students returning to Coimbatore from a study tour at Dharmapuri. Three girl students were trapped inside the bus and were burnt alive.