Thursday, June 10, 2010

Minister in Rajapakasa team is a proclaimed offender in India

Minister in Rajapakasa team is a proclaimed offender in India

A Subramani, TNN, Jun 10, 2010, 12.46am IST

CHENNAI: Accompanying Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa on his India visit is a tall, well-built, bearded, bespectacled man. As with the other ministers in the delegation, this man -- Douglas Devananda, minister for traditional industries and small enterprises development -- is being accorded full state protocol. Ironically, he is a proclaimed offender in India and liable for arrest.

Devananda was declared a proclaimed offender and an absconding accused by a sessions court in Tamil Nadu in connection with a shootout-cum-murder in Chennai in 1986. In November 1986, Devananda, then a member of the separatist movement Eelam People's Revolutionary Front (EPRLF) in Sri Lanka, and nine others were charged with opening fire with automatic weapons at locals in Choolaimedu in Central Chennai, injuring five people. One person, Thirunavukkarasu, succumbed to his injuries later.

Members of the LTTE, EPRLF and other Lankan militant outfits used to freely move around and live in Chennai, then Madras, in the 1980s.

In the Choolaimedu shootout case, Devananda and others were charged with murder, attempt to murder, rioting and unlawful assembly. While Devananda alone attended courts and obtained bail, others absconded from the very beginning. In 1994, he too went underground, forcing the VI additional sessions court in Chennai to declare him a proclaimed offender.

Another case for kidnapping a boy for ransom was registered against Devananada by the Kilpauk police on March 2, 1989, and that, too, is pending. The third case was registered by the Kodambakkam police in 1990 for rioting and criminal intimidation of a person called Valavan by Devananda.

Devananda, who was made minister for traditional industries and small enterprises development by Rajapaksa, has a chequered history. He was formerly with the EPRLF, later in the People Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), then with the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) and now with the Eelam People's Democratic Party (EPDP). As a bitter critic of the LTTE and its chief V Prabhakaran, he has escaped at least 10 attempts on his life, the latest being the one by a human bomb who exploded in his office on November 28, 2007.

As per Section 41(1)(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, any police officer may "without an order from a magistrate and without a warrant" arrest any person who has been proclaimed as an offender either under the CrPC or by an order of the state government, if found anywhere in India.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) prohibits Indians from extending facilities such as food, shelter, money, arms and conveyance to offenders and proclaimed offenders, and has specific provisions to punish people who harbour such people. While Section 52A defines what is harbouring, Section 216 prescribes imprisonment up to seven years or fine or both, for those who harbour offenders.

In fact, a practising advocate preferred a public interest writ petition in the Madras high court on Wednesday, seeking the arrest of Douglas Devananda in connection with the pending criminal cases against him. The petitioner, P Pugalenthi, has said that on coming to know that Douglas would be part of the presidential delegation from Sri Lanka, he had petitioned the Union ministries of home and external affairs, besides the director-general of police in Tamil Nadu, to arrest and prosecute Devananda. "I have not received any response from the authorities so far," he said.

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