The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today awarded life sentences to nine people, including former Union minister M K Alagiri’s staunch loyalist ‘Attack’ Pandi, for setting ablaze ‘Dinakaran’ newspaper office in 2007 and killing three employees, News Today reported.
The judgement was delivered today (Mar 21) by a division bench comprising of Justice P N Prakash and Justice B Pugalendhi .
The High Court convicted 16 persons in total in connection with the 2007 case. Apart from the nine persons awarded life sentences, seven other convicts were sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment.
Among those given life imprisonments are ‘Attack’ Pandi (the main accused), Arogya Prabhu, Vijaypandi, Kandasamy, Ramaiah Pandi, Sudhakar, Tirumurugan, Roopan and Malik Basha.
The court has further ordered the Tamilnadu government to offer a solatium of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the three persons – Vinod, Gopinath and Muthuramalingam- who were killed in the gruesome attack.
During the course of the case, one of the accused, Saravana Muthu, had died. The High Court has also ordered Rajaram, a retired DSP convicted in the case, to appear before the bench 25 March to receive the quantum of sentence.
In May 2007, DMK mouthpiece Dinakaran published a opinion poll conducted by A.C. Nielsen Co. which showed that DMK Chief Karunanidhi’s younger son M. K Stalin had more public approval than his elder brother M. K Azhagiri .According to the poll, 70% of those polled preferred Stalin, while only 2% preferred Azhagiri. Stalin and Azhagiri were involved in a bitter succession battle.
Dinakaran is owned by Kalanidhi Maran, who is grand-nephew of Karunanidhi and brother of DMK politician and ex-Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran.
Enraged by the opinion poll, DMK cadres in the southern district of Tamil Nadu, most of them owing allegiance to Azhagiri (who had near complete stranglehold over the party organisation in few southern districts), engaged in violent protests.
During a protest at Madurai, they hurled stones at a building housing the offices of Dinakaran, Sun TV and Tamil Murasu, all belonging to Sun Group. Soon after they threw petrol bombs and set the building on fire. Ensuing blaze resulted in the death of 3 people by asphyxiation - two employees and a private security guard.
The management of Dinakaran including Kalanidhi Maran accused the Tamil Nadu police of ignoring their formal complaint, which specifically sought action against Karunanidhi’s son Azhagiri, and instead choose to act on a suo motu complaint which did not include his name
Karunanidhi, who was serving as the chief minister of the state, claimed that he puzzled by the timing of the survey, and had told the Dinakaran management that such polls may create unnecessary problems.
As fallout of the survey, Dayanidhi Maran was forced to quit the Union cabinet.
By early 2009, the warring factions of Karunanidhi family had made peace. Azhagiri himself was fielded from Madurai Lok Sabha seat. Dayanidhi won a renomination from Chennai central constituency.
On 16 May 2009, police arrested their prime suspect, P. Pandi (aka "Attack" Pandi), who was accused of to spearheading the attack.
The case was subsequently transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation which in chargesheet 17 people in the cas.
In December 2009, all 17 were acquitted by the district sessions court, which claimed that the case had not been proven beyond all reasonable doubt.
In March 2011, the Madras High Court allowed an appeal challenging this decision, despite a delay in filing the same.