The Madras High Court on Tuesday granted conditional bail to 25 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam activists in the February 2000 Dharmapuri bus burning case and suspended implementation of the seven-year rigorous imprisonment awarded by a Salem court.
Holding that persons convicted for offences less grave in nature will be normally enlarged on bail, a division bench comprising Justice R Balasubramanian and Justice Prabha Sridevan said, "We do not find any reason to deviate from that stand and grant bail on an appeal filed by the activists."
Following the conviction of AIADMK supremo and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa in the Pleasant Stay Hotel case, irate party supporters and then local office bearers at Dharmapuri set fire to a bus of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University on February 3, 2000 in which women students of the university were travelling. Three students were charred to death while 18 others received burns.
Granting the bail, the bench directed the appellants to furnish personal bonds for Rs 25,000 each with two sureties for like amounts and report to the crime branch-CID of the Tamil Nadu police daily at 10.00 am.
Besides the seven year jail term to the 25 persons, the Salem Additional Sessions Judge D Krishnaraja on February 17 had awarded death penalty to three persons holding them responsible for the gruesome incident. In all, 31 persons were accused in the case. While one person had died during the course of the trial, two were acquitted.