27 yrs after assaulting Dalit men who didn't support him, YSRCP candidate convicted

Trimurthulu was the independent MLA of Ramachandrapuram in undivided East Godavari district in 1996 when he along with others tonsured and beat up Dalit men for not supporting the former in the 1994 Assembly elections.
YSRCP leader Thota Trimurthulu
YSRCP leader Thota Trimurthulu
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Nine men including YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) leader Thota Trimurthulu, a member of the forward caste Kapu community, were found guilty by a Visakhapatnam court on Tuesday, April 16, of forcibly tonsuring and assaulting Dalit men in 1996. Trimurthulu, the prime accused in the case, is the YSRCP MLA candidate for Mandapeta constituency in Konaseema district for the upcoming Assembly elections. All the accused, barring one individual who passed away, were sentenced to 18 months imprisonment along with a fine of Rs 42 thousand each.

Trimurthulu was the independent MLA of Ramachandrapuram in undivided East Godavari district in 1996 when he along with others forcibly tonsured Koti Chinna Raju and Dadala Venkata Ratnam and beat up three others — Challapudi Pattabhiramayya, Kanikella Ganapati and Puvvala Venkata Ramana — for not supporting them in the 1994 Andhra Pradesh Assembly elections. The victims were working as polling agents for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Following the assault, several civil liberties activists protested to ensure that the case was registered. The Draksharamam police in East Godavari district took up the case and filed a chargesheet. However, protests demanding justice for the Dalit men continued owing to several delays. 

While Trimurthulu and his co-accused were arrested on January 7, 1996, the Andhra Pradesh High Court stayed the arrest on the grounds that the accused were mistrustful of the Rajahmundry sessions court judge Thyagaraja Naidu. The charge sheet was filed under Sections 342 (Punishment for wrongful confinement), 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means), 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) read with Section 34 (Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Section 3(iii) and (x) of the The Scheduled Castes And The Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The case has been dragging on since then, and in 2021, when the public prosecutor brought up caste certificates as proof of the complainants’ SC identities, the Visakhapatnam special court refused to consider it evidence. Until this point, the police had not attached the caste certificates to the chargesheet. 

In February 2024, the High Court found fault with the lower court for not taking the caste certificates of the victims into consideration and also for refusing to take their testimony in the case. “This is against Section 311 (Power to summon material witness or examine person present) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,” Justice Venkateswarlu Nimmagadda had remarked.

At the time of the verdict, one of the nine accused, Talatam Muralikirshna, and 11 out of 24 witnesses in the case had passed away.

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