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Three AIADMK cadres held guilty of murder

They were charged for the murder of three young women charred to death in a bus.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2007 13:26 IST

A Tamil Nadu court on Thursday convicted three AIADMK cadres for the murder of three young women charred to death in a bus during a protest by the party seven years ago.

A fourth AIADMK worker was convicted for complicity by First Additional District Sessions Judge D Krishna Raja in Salem.

On Feb 2, 2000, a bus carrying Tamil Nadu Agricultural University students was returning to Coimbatore from a study tour at 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.

Of the list of 28 accused, the judge convicted Nedu, alias Nedunchezhian, the AIADMK third ward secretary of Dharmapuri and two others of murder. DK Rajendran, AIADMK union secretary of Dharmapuri at the time, was declared guilty of complicity.

The sentences will be announced on Friday.

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 kms from Salem.

Then, in September 2003, the Madras High Court, acting on a petition by the father of one of the girl's 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.