A court in Puducherry on Wednesday acquitted all the accused, including Kanchi seers Jayendra Saraswathi and Vijayendra Saraswathi, in the sensational Sankararaman murder case.
All the accused except an absconding person were present in the court when Puducherry principal district and sessions judge C S Murugan pronounced the verdict.
The judgment came more than nine years after A Sankararaman, manager of Sri Varadharajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram, was murdered.
The judge said there was no substantial and corroborative evidence to prove the murder charge against the accused. The court said the motive for the commission of the murder was not proved since Padma, wife of Sankararaman and witness number 1, and her son Anand Sharma, who is witness number 3, failed to support the prosecution case.
The judge also said the chief investigation officer admittedly failed to do investigation with respect to the final letter (letter of motive) dated August 30, 2004, alleged to have been sent by Sankararaman.
The murder case that attained nationwide attention took several twists and turns, including prosecution witnesses turning hostile during the course of examination and reexamination.
Sankararaman who had levelled charges of financial mismanagement against the Kanchi seers, was found murdered on September 3, 2004. He was believed to have been murdered by an armed gang.
The Kanchi seers were charged with criminal conspiracy, misleading the court by giving false information, criminal trespass and supply of funds to carry out the criminal activity.
The Tamil Nadu police arrested the senior seer on November 11, 2004, from Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh. The junior seer was arrested on January 10, 2005. The arrests evoked widespread uproar from pro-Hindu parties and outfits. The murder and arrests happened during the previous tenure of J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK.
Police arrested 22 others, including junior seer's brother and the mutt manager. However, the senior seer was granted bail on January 10, 2005. The junior seer got bail on February 10 the same year. One of the accused, M Kathiravan, was murdered in March this year.
The Supreme Court in October, 2005, transferred the case from a Chengalpet court to the Puducherry court following a special leave petition, which claimed that the atmosphere in the state was not conducive for a fair and free trial. The apex court also ordered appointment of a special prosecutor from Puducherry to conduct the trial to replace prosecutors from Tamil Nadu.
The Puducherry principal district and sessions court began the trail in November, 2005. Four judges - M Chinapandi, D Krishnaraja, T Ramasamy and C S Murugan - heard the trial that had lasted for eight years.
The Madras high court stayed the trial from August, 2011, to February, 2012, following a petition alleging that the key accused had attempted to influence the judgment. The court directed a district judge to conduct an inquiry into the allegations. The judge submitted the inquiry report to the registrar general (vigilance), who in turn submitted the report to the administrative committee comprising of seven judges.
The court lifted the stay on the trial in the Puducherry court based on the inquiry findings and later transferred the then principal district sessions judge, T Ramasamy, who was trying the case, to Perambalur and posted Murugan in his place.
As many as 187 witnesses were examined and re-examined by the prosecution and defence counsels. Eighty-two witnesses and a lone approver, Ravi Subramanian, turned hostile.
â€‹Sankararaman murder case: Timeline
September 3, 2004: A Sankararaman, manager of the Sri Varadharajaswamy temple in Kancheepuram is found murdered on the temple premises. An armed gang is believed to have murdered him.
November 11, 2004: Senior seer Jayendra Saraswathi is arrested from Mehboobnagar, Andhra Pradesh.
January 10, 2005: Junior seer Vijayendra Saraswathi is arrested
September 3, 2004 to January 10, 2005: Twenty-four persons, including the two seers and two other mutt officials and brother of the junior seer, are arrested
January 10, 2005: Jayendra Saraswati is granted bail
February 10, 2005: Vijayendra Saraswati gets bail
October 26, 2005: The Supreme Court transfers the case from a Chengalpet court to a Puducherry court on a special leave petition filed by the senior seer. On his plea, the apex court orders appointment of public prosecutor from Puducherry to conduct the trial
November 27, 2005: Trial begins
November 2005 to November 2013: A total of 187 witnesses are examined and re-examined by the prosecution and defence counsels. Eighty-two witnesses and a lone approver, Ravi Subramanian, turn hostile
November 2005 to November 2013: Four judges, Chinnapandi, D Krishnaraja, T Ramasamy and C S Murugan, hear the case
August, 2011: Madras HC stays trial after a petition alleges attempts to influence case
November, 2011: A district judge submits report to the registrar general (vigilance) on the allegation
February, 2012: HC replaces judge T Ramasamy with C S Murugan
August, 2012: A local court directs the authorities concerned to hand over copies of audio and video cassettes of the case proceedings to Anand Sharma following a petition
August 2012: The Madras high court stays a lower court order to provide copies to Anand Sharma following a petition by one of the accused people M Kathiravan
March, 2013: M Kathiravan murdered
November 12, 2013: Principal district and sessions court announces that the verdict will be pronounced on November 27
November 27, 2013: Principal district and sessions court acquits all accused, including Kanchi seers.