The Free Pricol 8 campaign organized by the Party all over the country for the release of 8 worker comrades of Pricol who were sentenced to double life imprisonment has won a huge though partial victory in the Madras High Court.Of the total 27 comrades who were chargesheeted for murder and criminal trespass with intent to kill, 25 are now acquitted while two remain convicted. The two convicted comrades who earlier carried double life imprisonment on them have been sentenced to life imprisonment now.
27 comrades including Comrade S Kumarasami, National President, AICCTU and 4 women comrades were charge-sheeted for offenses under section 120 B, Section 302 and other sections of IPC in Sessions case75 of 2011. This case was tried by the bomb blast cases court in Coimbatore. On 03.12.2015 the Sessions court convicted vanguards of the Pricol workers’ struggle Comrades Manivannan, Ramamurthy, Rajendran, Sivakumar, Velmurugan, Saravankumar, Sampathkumar, Gunabalan to double life imprisonment for murder and criminal trespass with intent to kill. They were also punished for causing damages under the Tamil Nadu Prevention of Damages to Public Property Act.
All 27 comrades were acquitted on the charge of criminal conspiracy. 19 comrades were acquitted of all other charges in the trail court itself. Against the acquittal of 19 comrades of all charges and the acquittal of the 8 comrades of the charge of criminal conspiracy the state government issued a GO that it is not a fit case for filing appeal.
The Pricol Management filed an appeal as a private complainant against the acquittal of 19 comrades. Even the private complainant did not file an appeal against the 8 convicted comrades with regard to their acquittal on the charge of criminal conspiracy.
We filed criminal appeals on behalf of all 8 convicted comrades and we were able to get bail for comrade Gunabalan only in October 2016.
The criminal appeals were heard and disposed of in record time.Arguments were addressed in the criminal appeals (ours and theirs) on 09.12.2017 and 12-15 December 2016. The matter was heard by a Division Bench of Madras High Court consisting of Justices V Nagamuthu and Adhinathan. Orders were pronounced on 19.02.1017 at 2.15 pm.
The Pricol management’s appeal against the acquittal of 19 comrades including Comrade S Kumarasami and 4 women comrades was dismissed. The appeals of Comrades Gunabalan, Sampathkumar, Rajendran, Sivakumar, Velmurugan and Saravanan against their conviction were allowed – and so 6 of the 8 comrades who were sentenced with double life imprisonment have been acquitted and set free. Life imprisonment was confirmed in the case of Comrades Manivanan and Ramamurthy. We are waiting for the order copy to take steps towards an appeal in SC against the conviction of the two comrades.
The acquittal of six of the Pricol 8 and the dismissal of the appeal against other acquittals filed by the Pricol Management is a huge moral victory and a vindication of the campaign for justice for the Pricol workers. Strengthened by this partial victory, the battle will now go on without any complacency for the acquittal of the remaining two comrades Manivanan and Ramamurthy as well.
Four of the comrades undergoing imprisonment in Coimbatore jails since December 3, 2016 came out of the prisons on 23.01.2017. The fifth, Comrade Sampathkumar could not be released as we go to press, because the court order was yet to reach the jail.
A huge gathering of Pricol workers with red flags, families and friends of those acquitted, along with Comrade S Kumarasami, welcomed those warriors of class struggle with slogans upholding the sacrifice of those comrades and calling for further intense efforts to secure the release of two comrades. As they neared the gates of the prison, all four comrades were raising their hands in red salute for the comrades gathered there to receive them. Comrades came out and hugged Comrade Kumarasami with tears in their eyes.
The released comrades spoke in the meeting held in the Party office. Comrade Sivakumar said that they were confident that the Union, the working class would not fail them. He said that Pricol workers have to gear up for a bigger battle as they have to face the long term settlement process this year. Comrades S Kumarasami and Bharati spoke in the meeting.
Earlier six advocates along with Comrade Kumarasami met Comrades Manivannan and Ramamurthy whose conviction is confirmed, and spoke to them for about 45 minutes.
As we go to press, the Maruti case trial has begun – 148 workers are awaiting justice in that case. The struggle for justice and freedom for the remaining two Pricol comrades and all the Maruti comrades will continue in the courts and the streets.