Press Release
New Delhi , 29-09-2011

The Principal District and Sessions Judge, Dharmapuri(Tamil Nadu) today convicted 215 accused persons including five Indian Forest Service (IFS) officers; two Tahsildars; two Inspectors and six Sub-Inspectors in the Vachathi case. 12 persons were sentenced with Rigorous Imprisonment of ten years each with a fine of Rs.1,000/- for the offence punishable U/s 3(2) (v) SC & ST ( Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989; 17 accused persons to undergo Rigorous Imprisonment of seven years each with fine of Rs.2,000/- for the offence of rape U/s 376 IPC and other accused persons to undergo various period of imprisonment for one year; two years and three years each for offences punishable under Indian Penal Code and SC & ST ( Prevention of Atrocities ) Act, 1989. The Sessions Judge has also ordered that from the fine amount, 18 victim who were women were entitled for Rs.15,000/- each and CBI is entitled to get the expense cost of Rs.One lakh for the conduct of trial after the appeal period is over. All sentences were ordered to run concurrently. 17 accused persons who were sentenced with more than seven years of RI were taken into custody immediately after the pronouncement of judgment. This case was related to the atrocities committed on the Tribal people of Vachathi Village in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu.

The Central Bureau of Investigation had registered a case on 23.3.95 on the directions of the Hon’ble High Court of Madras passed in WP No.14949/1992 dated.24.02.1995, against unknown persons for the offences punishable U/s.342, 376 r/w.34 IPC. It was alleged that on 20.6.1992, 269 forest, police and revenue officials entered the Vachathi village in Dharmapuri District of Tamilnadu for conducting search of smuggled sandalwood and ransacked the properties of the villagers, illegally detained the village women & children and raped the village women.

The investigation revealed that Vachathi Village in Harur Taluk, Dharmapuri District was the starting point of transportation of smuggled sandalwood procured illegally from the Chitteri Hill Ranges. Some of the Villagers of Vachathi were engaged in the illegal felling & transportation of sandalwood and acted as conduit for sandalwood smugglers. The problem of sandalwood smuggling as such had become a menace to the Forest Department of Tamil Nadu. The Forest Department were conducting special operations, forming special squads, mobilising manpower and other resources for preventing sandalwood smuggling.

After completion of the investigation, a charge sheet was filed before the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate, Coimbatore on 23.04.1996 against 269 officials of Forest, Police & Revenue, all of Tamil Nadu Government for the offences punishable U/s 143, 147, 149, 323, 427, 342, 323 r/w 34 IPC, 376 IPC, Sec. 201 & 203 IPC and Sec. 3 (1) (x) (xi) (xiii) & (xv) and Sec. 3 (2) (vi) and (vii) of SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 .

During the course of trial, 75 witnesses were examined and 324 exhibits were marked on behalf of prosecution. The accused filed various petitions in the Trial Court and High Court to delay the trial proceedings. In the Criminal Revision Petition No.797/2011 filed by the accused, the High Court of Madras had directed the Trial Court to complete the trial expeditiously.

After completion of trial, the Court found 215 accused persons guilty of offences and convicted them. 54 persons expired during the course of trial and charges against them were abated.