Eighteen years after popular Kannada actor Rajkumar was kidnapped by infamous dacoit Veerappan, a court in Gobichettipalayam, in Erode district, acquitted the nine accused in the case. Veerappan and two other associates of his passed away during the course of the trial.
Additional District Judge Mani, in his judgment on Tuesday, stated that the prosecution did not gather enough evidence against the accused in the case and "not even an iota of evidence was produced to show the accused were accomplices of Veerappan". The judge also said that Rajkumar's family did not turn up to depose in front of the court during the trial.
While Veerappan was killed in an encounter by the Special Task Force in October 2004, Rajkumar passed away two years later in 2006.
The abduction took place on July 30, 2000, when Rajkumar was with his family at a farmhouse in Dhodda Gajanur village in Talavadi. The actor was held captive for 108 days in the jungle before he was released on November 15.
Veerappan, who resided in the Sathyamangalam forests, next to Thalavadi, abducted Rajkumar with a team of his associates. At the time, the incident shocked residents of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and kept its Chief Ministers SM Krishna and Karunanidhi on their toes. The incident led to disruptions in Bengaluru where offices of Tamil newspapers were ransacked.
Following the actor's release, police officials at Talavadi registered a case against Veerappan and 11 of his associates.
In addition to both Rajkumar and Veerappan, two members accused of the crime - Sethukuzhi Govindan and Rangaswamy - also passed away during the course of the trial. Of the nine remaining members, five of the accused are in jail. The charges against them range from abetment of an offence, conspiracy, unlawful assembly, criminal trespassing, abduction for ransom, and they have also been booked under sections of the Arms Act.
The trial court in Erode was pulled up by the Madras High Court in 2016 for asking the actor's widow Parvathamma to appear in court.