Three AIADMK workers were on Friday sentenced to death for the murder of three women students who were burnt to death in a bus during a protest by the party seven years ago.
First Additional District Sessions Judge D Krishna Raja, who had passed the verdict Thursday saying that the crime was "brutal, despicable and diabolical" and the perpetrators "should not be allowed to remain in society", sentenced 25 other AIADMK workers to seven years imprisonment.
The three who have been awarded death sentence are Nedunchezhian (41), Muniappan (52) and Ravindran (also known as Madhu, 44).
On February 2, 2000, a bus carrying Tamil Nadu Agricultural University students was returning to Coimbatore from a study tour in Dharmapuri when it was set ablaze by a mob protesting the conviction of their leader, former chief minister J Jayalalitha, in a corruption case.
Three girl students -- V Kokilavani, Gayathri and Hemalatha -- were trapped inside the bus and were burnt alive and 18 students injured.
In the last seven years, the case has seen several ups and downs with witnesses turning hostile and courts changing.
On April 28, 2000, the Tamil Nadu crime branch of the police filed a chargesheet in what is known as the Dharmapuri bus-burning case in the judicial magistrate's court in Dharmapuri.
The case was first heard in a court in Krishnagiri, about 500 km from here.
Then, in September 2003, the Madras High Court, acting on a petition by the father of one of the girls killed, scrapped the trial calling it a mockery and transferred it to the Salem court.
On that fateful day, furious AIADMK cadres had begun protesting soon after Jayalalitha was awarded a one-year sentence under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988 and charged with criminal conspiracy and misconduct by a public servant.
She was convicted for her role in granting illegal exemption in 1994 to a Kodaikanal hotel called Pleasant Stay. The punishment was later stayed by the Madras High Court.