Supreme Court Has Refused To Hear The Appeal Of Two PRICOL Workers Against Their Life Imprisonment

Vindictive Attempt By PRICOL Management To Get Life Imprisonment For Seven More PRICOL Workers

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Pricol workers’ case from the Sessions Court to the Supreme Court

The bomb blast cases Sessions Court in Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, imposed the punishment of double life imprisonment on 8 Pricol workers on 03.12.2015. It acquitted 19 comrades including 4 women comrades. It was the prosecution’s case, that provoked by the dismissal of 42 workers on 19.09.2009, the leaders and workers entered into a conspiracy on 20.09.2009 to kill one Mr.Roy George, HR Vice president of Pricol Limited. It was their further case that accused No. 1 to 9 committed criminal trespass by entering the HR department, beating up Mr.Roy George and three more persons with iron rods and that they were saying that they were doing that as per the instructions of their leaders S.Kumarasami and two others.

Actually they attributed a chain with regard to the alleged crime with the following key links: 1) Dismissal of 42 workers on 19.09.2009. 2) A conspiracy was hatched in the union office to do away with Mr.Roy George who signed the dismissal orders. 3) The alleged criminal trespass and attack in the HR office on 21.09.2009 which led to the death of Mr.Roy George.

The Sessions Court held that there was no proof with regard to the service of the dismissal orders and it did not accept the evidence about the conspiracy.This was confirmed by the High Court when it also disbelieved the evidence with regard to the conspiracy. Even though the Pricol management filed an appeal with regard to the conspiracy also they did not press it in the Supreme Court on 13.11.2017. It will be thus evident that the dismissals which were alleged to be the immediate motive for the alleged crime and the resultant conspiracy were not proved and that the two key links in the criminal chain have snapped.

The Sessions Court acquitted A 7 by stating that his name has been inserted in the FIR and the complaint. The High Court concurred with this view and upheld his acquittal.

But unfortunately on 13.11.2017 the Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave Petitions of Manivannan and Ramamurthy who are in jail from 03.12.2015.The Supreme Court has also ordered notice to seven more workers on the SLP filed by the management. Six of the workers i.e., A 3, A 4, A 5, A 6, A 8 and A 9 have been acquitted by the High Court on 19.01.2017. The acquittal of A 7 by the Sessions Court was confirmed by the High Court also. Now the Supreme Court has decided on 13.11.2017 that the appeal of the workers against life imprisonment need not even be examined while the acquittal of the workers Com.Rajendran (A 3), Com.Sivakumar (A 4), Com.Sampathkumar (A 5), Com.Velmurugan (A 6), Com.Gurusami (A7), Com.Saravanakumar (A 8) and Com. Gunabalan (A 9) should be subjected to judicial scrutiny. This has shocked not only the concerned workers but also the working class movement as a whole.

Why were the Pricol workers and leaders targeted?

The overwhelming majority of Pricol workers joined AICCTU in 2007 and demanded that their union should be recognized. The issue of trade union recognition and workers’ rights were the main issues that were behind worker eruptions in the automobile and auto component industry in the new millennium. Hyundai and Maruti workers’ struggles also burst out more or less around the same time. Everywhere the managements refused to honor industrial democracy. Pricol workers waged a long struggle in spite of various attacks like transfers, dismissals, partial lock-outs, denial of settlement wages and a few dozen criminal cases.  Com.Kumarasami, National President of AICCTU, who was leading their struggles, was also conducting their cases at various levels upto the Supreme Court. It was only in such circumstances that the state and the capitalist class joined hands to foist false cases against Com. Kumarasami and Pricol vanguards by using the unfortunate death of Mr.Roy George. Pricol workers and their leaders were targeted because they refused to bow down and instead they successfully carried on their struggles. Mr.Roy George joined Pricol Limited in March 2009. According to the prosecution, Com.Kumarasami instigated his killing in a public meeting in January 2009! Their whole plan was to remove the external leadership as well as the worker vanguards from the scene so that they could crush the workers’ struggles. That is why they cooked up the cock and bull story of dismissals and conspiracy which version has been disbelieved by the Sessions Court and High Court and which version was not pressed in the Supreme Court by the management.

Some information on Pricol Limited

Pricol, an auto component factory, was founded in 1974 to supply spare parts to two wheelers, three wheelers, four wheelers, off-the road vehicles, public transport vehicles, tractors and other vehicles. They are supplying to Volks Wagon, Skoda, Volvo, Daimler, Renault Nissan, Maruti, Fiat, Mercedes Benz, Bajaj, Tata Motors, Mahindra and Mahindra, TVS, Royal Enfield, Ashok Leyland, Tafe, Yamaha Motors, Honda Motors, Hero Motors, Caterpillar, JCB, Cummins, Generec, John Deer, CNH, Eisher and GM. They are manufacturing driver information system, pumps and mechanical products, asset management solutions, sensors and telematics. Pricol has got 5,290 confirmed employees all over the world and 248 of them are in R and D. This number will be more if the non-regular workers’ number is added. They have factories in Jakarta of Indonesia and Sao Paulo of Brazil. They have plants in Pant Nagar, Gurgaon, Pune and Coimbatore. They have entered the integrated wiper systems by acquiring BMP Pal Limited and through that they have a presence in Satara of Maharashtra, Pubela of Mexico and Prague of the Czech Republic. They have offices in Stuttgart of Germany, Chicago, Tokyo, Bangkok and Singapore. They are establishing factories in Hosur of Tamilnadu and Tada of Andhra. They have reserves and surplus amounting to Rs.833 crores and they are planning for revenues of Rs. 3,000 crore by 2020.

What happened in the industrial relations after the unfortunate death of Mr.Roy George in 2009?

Mr.Roy George was injured in suspicious circumstances on 21.09.2009 and he unfortunately died on 22.09.2009. In spite of the subsequent arrests and the siege on the workers, the workers did not give up the struggle. Due to punitive search operations one worker committed suicide fearing arrest. As the management could not finish off the union, it recognized the union in 2011. The management signed two tripartite (12/3) settlements with the union on wages and other service conditions in 2012 and 2014. The management signed the settlements with the same union and the same leadership whom the management called as killers! Does this not clearly show that the management was certain that the union was in no way connected with the unfortunate death of Mr.Roy George?

But as the trial commenced in the sessions court in 2015, the management went back to its old ways of victimization. It cut down heavily on the bonus of employees. It is trying to undermine the union by transferring workers arbitrarily and by forcing them to give higher productivity.  It is once again trying to finish off the union before the next wage settlement due in 2018. Mr.Vikram Mohan, the managing director of Pricol Limited and two of his officers met the press on 07.07.2017 in Coimbatore. There they bemoaned the fact that in Gurgaon 900 workers are giving a production valued at Rs.350 crore while 1,300 workers in Coimbatore are giving production valued at Rs.270 crores while Coimbatore wages are double that of the wages in Gurgaon. This shows that there is no effective collective bargaining in Gurgaon. This also shows that the management wants to do away with the effective collective bargaining in Coimbatore.

Response of the Pricol workers to the double life imprisonment to 8 of their comrades

When double life imprisonment punishment was given on 03.12.2015, many parts of Tamilnadu were flooded due to unprecedented rains. Even though the workers were shocked and pained by the punishment of double life imprisonment, they collected Rs.5 lakhs as flood relief and distributed it immediately. Pricol workers initiated a solidarity campaign for Maruti workers facing a murder trial, collected funds and went to Gurgaon and handed over the same to Maruti workers.

End 2016 and early 2017, the agrarian crisis deepened in Tamilnadu and farmers were losing their lives. There was a state wide solidarity strike in support of the farmers on 25.04.2017. In spite of the threat of 8 days’ penal wage cut, Pricol workers went ahead with the solidarity strike. 809 workers were subjected to penal deduction of 8 days’ wages.

Pricol workers have given a solidarity fund of Rs.20,000 each to 90 of the dismissed workers. Pricol workers are providing solidarity fund to the families of their comrades who are in jail. Pricol workers are contributing to all the criminal cases as well as the labour court cases. Till date Pricol workers have contributed more than Rs.50 lakhs as a solidarity fund.

Pricol workers launched a powerful Free Pricol 8 campaign throughout the country and the campaign elicited international response also.

The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of Pricol workers against life imprisonment. Is their case so weak?

The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of Pricol workers against life imprisonment. Is their case so weak?

We will present the facts. You seek truth from the facts.

The Sessions Court has not accepted the prosecution’s case on the immediate motive in as much as it has held that there is no evidence for the service of the dismissal orders on 19.09.2009. The Sessions Court has also held that the prosecution has not proved the conspiracy. When the alleged murder is due to an alleged conspiracy and when it is stated that the attackers during the attack had claimed that they were attacking as per the instructions of their leaders in the conspiracy meeting, the whole case falls when the conspiracy theory falls.

When the High Court says that PW 1 has deliberately included two names A 7 (Com.Gurusami) and A 9 (Com.Gunabalan) in this case in which the punishment can be up to death sentence, does not a natural and logical doubt arise as to whether he has deliberately and falsely included seven more names?

PW 1 has stated categorically that 9 persons attacked 9 times. When the High Court says that two of them (A 7 and A 9) have been falsely implicated and there are only two wounds instead of nine, it should have held the prosecution’s version about the attack as false. There is no acceptable explanation from PW 1 as to why there were only two wounds.

PW 1 has stated that on the date of the incident the higher officials who came to the hospital did not ask him anything about the incident and that he did not tell them anything about the incident. This is not natural human conduct at all. And as such this evidence deserves to be rejected.

PW 1 has stated that he was aware of the conspiracy to murder much earlier and he has given statements to this effect under Section 161 Cr.Pc and in the inquest also. But he has not reported it either to the management or to the police. As per Section 39 of Cr.Pc any person who is aware of the commission of a crime like murder or the intention to commit a crime like murder should immediately report the same to the nearest court or the police. PW 1 has acted in violation of Section 39 of Cr.Pc. Thus, he has come to court with unclean hands. As such his evidence should have been rejected.

Generally, the evidentiary value of injured eye witnesses is significant. But in this case, where there are three injured eye witnesses and three eye witnesses, the High Court has not accepted the evidence of the two injured eye witnesses and three eye witnesses with regard to the occurrence. The High Court has partly believed the evidence of prosecution witness number 1. The High Court has concluded in a strange and unacceptable way that since there are two injuries on the deceased, A 1 and A 2 should be held guilty. Random choice of A 1 and A 2 for life imprisonment is unfair and unjust. Probably the judiciary feels that in the case of a death of a high level Human Resources Department Executive, someone or other should be punished, and that acquitting all will send a wrong message.

We can only say that judgments should not be based on public opinion or national sentiments and definitely they need not be investor friendly. They should be based on law. When the whole occurrence as per the prosecution’s version is suspicious according to the High Court, it should have acquitted all the accused; in such circumstances the evidentiary value of injured eye witnesses is worthless.

We will extract some portions from the judgment of the Madras High Court on 19.01.2017 when it acquitted six and upheld the conviction of two Pricol workers.

“…..we have gone through the complaint-Ex.P.1. The alleged occurrence was at 11.40 a.m. on 21.09.2009 whereas the FIR was allegedly registered at 06.30 p.m. on 21.09.2009. The FIR had reached the hands of the learned Magistrate at Coimbatore on the next day, that was, on 22.09.2009, that too, at 03.00 p.m. Absolutely, there is no explanation for this inordinate delay. That apart, in Ex.P.1-Complaint, the name of A7 was obviously interpolated as an assailant between the names of Velmurugan and Sampathkumar. It is stated in Ex.P.1 that A7 also came with the other accused namely, A1 to A6, A8 and A9.  In Ex.P.1 no other overt act whatsoever has been attributed against A7. But, strangely, besides shockingly, Ex.P.40-FIR shows that the name of A7 was interpolated between the names of accused Sampathkumar and Saravanakumar. This interpolation was made after the name of Sampathkumar because in Ex.P.40 there is no space before the name of Sampathkumar so as to interpolate the name of A7. In the body of Ex.P.40, interpolation of the name of A7 has been made. As we have already stated, no overt act has been attributed to A7 in Ex.P.1, except stating that he came along with the other accused to the office of the deceased. But, in Ex.P.40, it is stated that A7 also attacked the deceased with iron rod. Similarly, though in Ex.P.1, it is stated by means of interpolation that A7 came along with the other accused, there is no such interpolation found in Ex.P.40 so as to say that A7 also came along with the other accused. In fact, Ex.P.40-FIR should be strictly the replica of Ex.P.1-Complaint and there should not be any variance.  But, shockingly, Ex.P.1-Complaint and Ex.P.40-FIR, are in variance. As we have already elaborated, absolutely, there is no explanation for the same. Ex.P.40 further reflects that originally there were ten named accused. But, A7-Guruswamy’s name was interpolated after the name of A6-Sampathkumar and thereafter the serial number of the other accused have been corrected in Ex.P.40. These interpolations and corrections would clearly go to show that after the case was registered under Ex.P.40, as an afterthought the name of A7 was interpolated in Ex.P.1 as well as in Ex.P.40. Absolutely, there is no explanation for these interpolations except the explanation by P.W.1 that after Ex.P.1 was drafted and read over to him since he found the name of A7 missing, he wanted the same to be inserted in Ex.P.1. If this version is true, there is no chance at all for any such interpolation in Ex.P.40 which was registered later based on Ex.P.1. But, as we have already pointed out, there were interpolations and corrections in Ex.P.40 also and the same would go to clearly prove that the interpolations and corrections both in Ex.P.1 and Ex.P.40 were made after the case was registered. This would give rise to a natural presumption that A7’s name was included, later on,  by means of interpolation and correction because he also happened to be an active member of the trade union.  Had he been present at the time of occurrence, had he got any overt act, certainly, these facts would have been mentioned in Ex.P.1 without there being any interpolation.  For these reasons, the trial court has rejected the case against A7. We find no infirmity in the said conclusion arrived at by the trial court at all calling for interference at our hands. Thus, the appeal, challenging the acquittal of A7 also deserves to be dismissed”.

“…….he has spoken about the presence of P.W.7 and participation of A9-Gunabalan. A7-Guruswamy’s name, as we have already concluded, was interpolated later and, A9-Gunabalan’s name does not find a place in Ex.P.1 at all.  Had it been true that A9 participated in the occurrence on 21.09.2009, P.W.1 would have mentioned his name in Ex.P.1 itself.  When he has stated that since after the complaint-Ex.P.1 was drafted and read over to him, he found missing of the name of A7 and, therefore, he wanted A1’s name to be interpolated, he would have similarly asked the person who drafted the complaint to interpolate the name of A9 also in Ex.P.1.  At the same time, he implicated A9 only during investigation. There is no explanation from him as to why he did not implicate A9 in the complaint-Ex.P1”.

“We have already concluded in agreement with the learned senior counsel that there were interpolations as well as corrections in Ex.P.1-Complaint and Ex.P.40 FIR which would certainly create an initial doubt in the mind of this court”.

“Apart from that, the learned senior counsel would submit that P.W.30 has admitted that just 50 feet away from the HR Office, which is situated in the Plant-I premises at Periyanaickkenpalayam, there were police men on bandobast duty because there was unrest among workers for a long time. P.W.30 has further admitted that he was present at the place of occurrence at the time of occurrence. The place of occurrence is at a distance of hardly 1/2 km from the police station which has been admitted by P.W.20, the Sub Inspector of Police also. Admittedly, it was a big rioting in which at least five persons sustained injuries and one was very seriously injured in the Office premises.  Pricol Company Limited is a big establishment where there would have been a number of workers on duty including the officers.  When the policemen were on bandobast duty just 50 feet away from the place of occurrence and the distance between the police station and the place of occurrence is hardly 1/2 km, it is highly doubtful that the occurrence was not known or reported to the police until 06.30 p.m. on 21.09.2009. We believe that the police should have had information immediately after the occurrence because there were police men on duty near the place of occurrence and that there would have been some other information to the police. In our considered opinion that earliest information has been suppressed by the police. This creates further doubt in the case of the prosecution”.

“According to P.W.27, he received an intimation from the hospital at 04.30 p.m. on the day of occurrence and thereafter only, he went to the hospital, recorded the statement of P.W.1 and on returning to the police station he registered the case at 06.30 p.m. As we have already pointed out, it is highly unbelievable that there was no other information to the police about the occurrence till 06.30 p.m. on 21.09.2009. The learned senior counsel Mr.Ashok Kumar would submit that Ex.P1-Complaint and Ex.P.40-FIR would not have come into being at 06.30 p.m. on 21.09.2009. We find force in the said argument also”.

“Both Ex.P.1 and Ex.P.40 reached the hands of the learned Magistrate only at 03.00 p.m. on 22.09.2009. After all, the distance between Periyanaickkenpalayam Police Station and the court of learned Magistrate is hardly about 15 km. But, the FIR, which was allegedly registered at 06.30 p.m. on 21.09.2009, reached the hands of the learned Magistrate only at 03.00 p.m. on the next day, that is, after 21 1/2 hours. Absolutely there is no explanation for such inordinate delay. P.W.27, the then Sub Inspector of Police has nothing to say about the delay. The police constable who carried the FIR and handed over the same to court has also not been examined. Thus, the above said unexplained delay coupled with the manipulations and corrections made in the FIR and the suppression of initial information, as we have already discussed hereinabove, would all go to create further doubt regarding the case of the prosecution”.

“As we have already extracted the charges framed in the instant case are not appropriate. We do not want to elaborate the same again, except saying that the charges framed did not satisfy the legal requirements. It appears that the case was not opened by the Public Prosecutor as required under Section 226 of Cr.P.C. It is not known as to why there was no charge framed by invoking Section 149 of IPC for causing the death of the deceased and for causing grievous hurts as well as simple hurts by some of the assailants. So fas as the conspiracy is concerned, charges can be read as though there were two different conspiracies, one involving A1 to A9 and the other involving A10 to A27”.

“The investigating officer in this case, in our considered view, had not discharged his function properly. As we have already pointed out, the FIR in this case is not a contemporaneous document as it is only a fabricated document by the Sub Inspector of Police (P.W.27) and the Inspector of Police (P.W.30). The importance of launching of prompt FIR and dispatching the same to the court is repeatedly impressed upon by Hon’ble Supreme Court as well as by this court. Despite that, as we have already discussed, it is not explained to the court as to what made the police to suppress the original information and why there was an inordinate delay in registering the case and why there was enormous delay in forwarding the same to the court.   It is also not known as to why P.W.30 has not chosen to examine the policemen on duty near the place of occurrence. He has not collected the medical records also properly. He has not collected the scientific evidences namely, CCTV Camera recordings by following the established procedure. Had the CCTV camera recordings been recovered and proved in evidence, the same would have brought the truth before the court. Men may lie but not the science”.

This is a case where the Madras High Court has said that:

  1. The case is fabricated and that the timing of FIR is false.
  2. Initial information is suppressed.
  3. Charge sheet is flawed.
  4. Blamed the Inspector (the investigation officer) for not producing the CCTV recordings of the occurrence when science would have brought out the truth.

The Madras High Court has rightly held that men may lie but science does not lie and it went on to say that truth would have come out if the CCTV recordings of the occurrence have been properly obtained and produced. The High Court should have drawn adverse inference against the prosecution for its failure to produce the CCTV recordings of the occurrence.

According to the High Court there is some other truth about the occurrence and the same has not been produced.This is all the more significant when the ambulance register on 21.09.2009 shows that there was an accident to Roy.J.George and it was subsequently altered as assault.  For this alteration nobody has put a signature. Moreover the names of Sakthivel (PW 1) and Thirumurugan (PW 2) have been inserted subsequently.

When that is the case it goes without saying that the benefit of doubt should be given to the accused. You cannot have doubts about a case and at the same time come to a conclusion about proof in that case.

The above details show that there is a strong basis for the Supreme Court to take up and examine the Special Leave Petition of the Pricol Workers against their life imprisonment.

The above facts will clearly show that the Pricol workers have a very good case for their Special Leave Petitions to be heard.

The Supreme Court has dismissed the appeal of the two Pricol workers against their life imprisonment. Can anything further be done in this case?

Finality is good. Justice is better

The Supreme Court’s earlier decision in A.R.Antulay Vs. R.S.Nayak and another reported in 1988 AIR Page 1531 shows us the way. In that case the Supreme Court has approvingly followed the maxim of Lord Atkin. “Finality is good. Justice is better”. It is held in this case that if the Supreme Court considers that any person has been wronged by its act, it has inherent powers to set right the wrong.

We have already pointed out that the Special Leave Petitions of the two Pricol workers deserved to be heard. The decision to dismiss the appeal without assigning any reason affects their right to life. Therefore this is a fit and proper case for the Supreme Court to invoke its inherent powers to set right the wrong that has been meted out to the two Pricol workers, which violates their right to life.

“Justice should not only be done but also appears to be done”. In view of the strong suspicion of the Madras High Court about the prosecution’s case, the Supreme Court should have given a chance to the two Pricol workers to present their Special Leave Petitions in detail before it.

What is to be done?

Thousands and thousands of signatures from all over India should be collected in a petition to the Chief Justice of India asking him to use the inherent powers of the Supreme Court to set right the wrong done to the two Pricol workers who challenged their life imprisonment by agreeing to examine their Special Leave Petitions. Signatures should be collected in all languages from toiling masses all over India. Unions affiliated to the fraternal central trade unions and the fraternal central trade unions can also send the memorandum to the CJI. WFTU and the unions affiliated to WFTU all over the world can also send the memorandum to the CJI. We can also ask prominent persons from all fields including the political field to send the memorandum to the CJI.

When this is all over by early 2018, we can knock at the doors of the Supreme Court through our lawyers.

Why is this campaign necessary?

There is a concerted attack on the working people throughout the world by capital which seeks to redistribute the wealth and incomes in favor of a few. Neo-liberal attacks are launched by the governments and the judiciary is also contributing to this. Workers of Graziano, Maruti, Pricol are given life sentences. The corporates who loot and plunder the resources are going scot-free. Sentencing workers to life imprisonment when they fight for their trade union rights firmly and persistently is a punishment to the working class as a whole. This is the time for the working class and toiling masses to say in a loud and decisive voice: “We will not take it anymore”.

Pricol workers were punished because of their trade union activities. The Madras High Court has found contradiction after contradiction in their case and it has expressed serious reservation and doubts about the prosecution’s case. It has also opined that the truth has not come out in their case. Therefore it would be fit and proper if the Supreme Court invokes its inherent powers to examine their SLPs for scanning the evidence.

The Pricol workers are fighting for their rights and are fighting for justice. Let all democratic and progressive sections of society join hands with them in their relentless pursuit of justice.

We are workers. We are the producers of all the wealth. We have got a right to be heard on the way the country is to be run and in our appeals before the Supreme Court also.

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FORMAT FOR SIGNATURE CAMPAIGN MEMORANDUM


An appeal to the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court of India

To,

The Hon’ble Chief Justice

Supreme Court of India

Sir,

Ref: The Supreme Court’s Order on 13.11.2017 in SLP (Crl) No 4727/2017

The above referred matter came up before the seventh court on 13.11.2017 and the appeal against life imprisonment by two Pricol Workers was dismissed by the Supreme Court without assigning any reasons on that day. The appeal was by two Pricol Workers of Coimbatore, Tamilnadu against their life imprisonment. But on the same day the same court has ordered notice to be issued to seven workers in the SLPs against their acquittal. This has sent shock waves throughout the working class movement.

The Madras High Court has held on 19.01.2017 that the FIR in this case is fabricated and was cooked up later and that the initial information about the occurrence has been suppressed. The High Court has also held that men may lie but science does not lie and then went on to say that the truth would have come out if the CCTV recordings of the occurrence have been obtained properly and produced in the sessions court. In view of the above material contradictions, and in view of the serious suspicions and reservations expressed by the High Court, the Supreme Court should have decided to hear and examine the SLP filed by the two workers against the life imprisonment.

We understand that the decision in A.R.Antulay’s case reported in AIR Supreme Court 1988 provides for the Supreme Court to invoke its inherent powers to examine and hear cases where any wrong has been meted out to any person by the court. In the Pricol workers’ appeal they have been wronged by denying a hearing and we request the Supreme Court to hear and examine their SLP to uphold their right to life.

Yours faithfully,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 


 

 

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