These 13 Maruti workers had been found guilty by the court on charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting, destruction of property and mischief.
New Delhi: A Gurgaon court on Saturday sentenced to life imprisonment 13 employees of Maruti Suzuki India Limited in connection with the murder of general manager (human resource) of the company, Awanish Kumar Dev, during a workers protest at its Manesar plant in 2012.
The court of additional district and sessions judge R.P. Goyal had on March 10 held these 13 employees guilty on charges of murder, attempt to murder, rioting, destruction of property and mischief. It had convicted another 18 for rioting and other crimes under various sections of the Indian Penal Code.
Out of these 18 who were convicted for voluntary causing hurt, destruction of property, rioting and rioting armed with deadly weapons, it sentenced four to five years imprisonment and ordered that the remaining 14 be fined and released. As many as 117 other accused had been acquitted by the court earlier this month.
On July 18, 2012, Dev was burnt to death while several other employees of the company suffered injuries in the violence that had taken place at the plant following a tussle between the workers and the management.
Police had initially arrested 148 workers in connection with the murder while 62 remained untraced and were subsequently declared proclaimed offenders.
With the sentencing, the first major round of the legal battle has finished. The case had come into the limelight as much for the murder as for the manner in which the police had rounded up and arrested a large number of company workers and union leaders, often without substantive evidence.
It is for this reason that a group of senior lawyers from New Delhi, comprising Vrinda Grover, Rebecca John and R.S. Cheema, decided to fight the case on behalf of the accused.
During the course of the arguments on the quantum of punishment on March 17, public prosecutor Anurag Hooda had charged that Dev’s murder had been planned by the union members. “This case falls under the category of rarest of rare as Dev was incapacitated by multiple assaults on his legs and then burnt alive. Is a case of murder and hence we demand death for the 13 convicted under Section 302 (murder) of IPC,” he was quoted as saying.
The defence lawyers, Grover and John, had countered the argument saying that most of the employees had been booked on trumped up charges and the very foundation of the prosecution case had been destroyed by the acquittal of 117 other accused in the case.
They stated that “the very fact that some are acquitted and some are convicted only for certain things clearly shows that there was no unlawful assembly. So while some people who were present on the first floor, where the fire incident took place, were convicted, the others were not even present there.”
Earlier, in January this year, during the cross-examination in the case, the defence counsel had argued that there were several glaring loopholes in the prosecution case. They had also demonstrated how the police had not only tried to implicate most of the accused but also planted false evidence.
Following the sentencing of the accused, the team of defence lawyers declared that they would be challenging the trial court judgment in the Chandigarh high court. “There were three of us who were contesting the case in Gurugram and the same legal team would take it forward in the Chandigarh high court,” Grover had earlier told The Wire.