Sri Lankan minister must appear in person for murder trial: Chennai court
A Chennai sessions court on Thursday refused to revoke a non-bailable arrest warrant issued against Sri Lankan minister Douglas Devananda and turned down his offer to face the murder trial he faces in India through video-conferencing.
Devananda and nine others are accused of firing on local residents and killing one person at Choolaimedu in Chennai in November 1986. All the 10 were arrested and charged with murder. A chargesheet was filed before the IV additional sessions court in 1987. As all of them absconded after being released on bail, the court declared them as proclaimed offenders in August 1994.
The minister had approached the court seeking cancellation of the warrant and cited security threat to him and possible law and order problem in Tamil Nadu if he visited the state to attend the trial. Devananda sought the court’s permission to face trial through video-conferencing at the Indian high commission in Sri Lanka.
Rejecting his request, IV additional sessions judge S Rajagopalan said his personal appearance before the court could not be dispensed with because of the police objection over his identification and the gravity of charges against him. "The petitioner has not complied with the order of the high court. Further, the respondent (police) clearly and categorically questioned the identification of the person accused. The NBW is pending for long time," the judge said in his order. "Under these circumstances, after applying my judicial mind, it is concluded that the presence of the petitioner is essential, in order to ascertain his identity."
Public prosecutor Prabhavathi assured that Devananda would get adequate police protection if he chose to attend the trial proceedings. But the minister’s counsel said the Tamil Nadu police were not as good in providing security as in conducting investigation, as was evident from the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.