31 yrs on, HC holds all officials guilty in Vachathi rape case

The Madras High Court on Friday upheld a 2011 trial court order convicting over 200 forest, revenue and police department officials for raping tribal women and ransacking tribal habitations at Vachathi village in Dharmapuri district during a raid for smuggled sandalwood in 1992.

Justice P Velmurugan also ordered the state to pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to each of the 18 rape victims, give suitable government jobs to them or their family members, and take livelihood enhancement measures. The court also rapped the then-state government (led by AIADMK) for failing to act on complaints of brutality and shielding errant officials. Dismissing the appeals filed by officials, the HC said “The prosecution has proved the charges through witnesses and documents.”

Faulting the then Dharmapuri collector and district forest officer for not acting on complaints, the judge said 50% of the Rs 10 lakh to be paid to each of the victims should be recovered from the officials convicted for the rape of the 18 tribals, including a 13-year-old minor and an eight-month pregnant woman. The appeals were filed by 215 of 269 officials against a 2011 order of the Dharmapuri sessions court that convicted them. The remaining accused died during the trial.