Chennai: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday passed an interim order in the 1997 Melavalavu massacre case directing the 13 convicts, who were released by the Tamil Nadu government as part of the MGR centenary celebrations, to stay in Vellore district and not enter the Melavalavu village. The court has directed the state government to file a counter petition by January 6.
Six Dalits were murdered in Melavalavu village on June 30, 1997, after they won in the local body polls, by those belonging to an upper-caste community. The accused were sentenced to life imprisonment.
As part of the MGR centenary celebrations, the state government recently released all the 13 convicts, citing their good conduct. But the High Court has ordered them to not enter the village and remain in Vellore district. They have also been ordered to report before the concerned district probation officer in Vellore on the second and fourth Sundays of each month as well as before the district's Superintendent of Police on the first and third Sundays, said the interim order.
While hearing the case, the court directed the state government to file a response on the reasons that led them to pass an order for the premature release of the convicts. The court had expressed displeasure, asking where is the safety for those belonging to the SC/ST community if such life convicts are released. The accused were also held guilty by the Supreme Court.
While 44 people were accused in the murder case, only 17 were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court. Of these, one died during trial and three others were released as part of Anna centenary celebrations by the DMK government in 2008.
The centenary celebrations of late Chief Minister MG Ramachandran, fondly addressed as MGR, was held in 2017 in all districts of the state, except in Kanyakumari and Chennai where they were held last year.