The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the death sentence awarded to three All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam workers in connection with the 2000 Dharmapuri bus burning case, in which three college girls were charred to death.
A bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and B S Chauhan confirmed the death sentence awarded by the Madras high court in 2007. The trial court had also held the three workers guilty and awarded the capital punishment.
Twenty five other persons were given punishments ranging from two months to two years imprisonment in the case.
Hailing the Supreme Court's verdict, families of the victims said the ruling would act as a deterrent to violence against innocent people.
"My daughter may not come back today. But the verdict, though delayed, will act as a deterrent against persons trying to resort to such a crime in the future," said K Kasiammal, mother of Hemalatha, one of the three students charred to death in the incident.
She said any mercy petitions by the accused should not be entertained 'considering the gravity' of the crime.
"I am happy that the right punishment has been given to the guilty. This is a lesson to others. It would prevent recurrence of such violence," Kumaraswamy, father of another victim Kokilavani, said at Paramathivelur in Namakkal district.
Stating that attempts were made to derail the case, he thanked all those who deposed as prosecution witnesses, resulting in the conviction.
Senior lawyer R Srinivasan, who was the special government pleader in the trial court in Salem, said justice had been served and the apex court judgment would act as a deterrent against violence aimed at innocent people.
"It is due punishment for killing innocent students," he said.
Kokilavani, Hemalatha and Gayathri, students of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, were burnt alive when a mob set their college bus on fire at Ilakkiampatti near Dharmapuri during protests against the conviction of AIADMK leader and former chief minister Jayalalithaa in a corruption case.
A Salem court had awarded the death penalty to Nedu alias Nedunchezhian, Madhu alias Ravindran and C Muniappan, which was upheld by the Madras high court in 2007.