Erode court on Tuesday, September 25, 2018, acquitted all nine accused in the kidnapping of Dr. Rajkumar case dating back to July 30th, 2000. Additional District Judge in Gobichettipalayam, Erode in Tamil Nadu delivered the verdict 18 years after the dramatic abduction of the Kannada Superstar Dr. Rajkumar by dacoit and criminal Veerappan.
The court observed that the prosecution failed to produce ‘even an iota of evidence’ against the accused. Of the eight who were accused, three including Veerappan died through the course of the trial.
Dealing a huge blow to the prosecution, nobody from Rajkumar’s family including him and his wife Parvathamma who was present at the time of the kidnapping, testified before the court. 95 witnesses deposed in front of the Erode court including Rajkumar’s son-in-law Govindraja SA who was also kidnapped along with his Father-in-law.
The five accused were charged with abduction for ransom, criminal trespass, conspiracy, unlawful assembly, unlawful assembly with deadly weapons, abduction for wrongful confinement and Arms Act.
In July 2000, Kannada superstar Rajkumar, fondly called as Annavru, was abducted from his farmhouse in Gajanur, in the presence of his family. He was held captive in the dense Sathyamangalam forest for 108 days.
Even as the Special Task Force (STF) was trying to nab the notorious forest forager, interlocutors were appointed to negotiate with him on behalf of the government of Karnataka. Reports had suggested that Veerappan had demanded the release of several members of his gang who were incarcerated and ‘justice for Tamil Nadu in the Cauvery river water sharing dispute’.
R R Gopal, a journalist with Tamil magazine Nakheeran had been appointed as the negotiator after mutual agreement from both sides. After six rounds of talks with Veerappan, the release of Rajkumar was secured.
The terms agreed upon before the release remains controversial as unclear whether or not a ransom was paid.
While STF records reveal no ransom paid, late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had made a startling charge that the then Karnataka government, led by Chief Minister SM Krishna, had paid a ransom of Rs 30 crores.
Since 1992, Veerappan had taken forest officials, scientists, government officials and several other as hostage at least seven times, demanding ransom for their release each time.
The abduction of Dr. Rajkumar, who enjoyed a cult status in Karnataka, had brought the state to a standstill for several days as heighten emotions led to intensified protests across Karnataka, demanding the release of the actor.
The thespian Kannada actor passed away in April 2006 after he collapsed due to a cardiac failure while the dreaded dacoit Veerappan, along with his two associates, was shot by the Tamil Nadu STF in October 2004.