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Kanchi seers, 22 more acquitted in murder case
Thursday November 28, 2013 7:42 AM, IANS

A court here Wednesday acquitted all the 24 accused, including the two Shankaracharyas of Tamil Nadu's Kanchipuram Mutt, in the 2004 murder of a man found dead in a temple.

As Hindu groups celebrated the verdict raising slogans in support of Jayendra Saraswathi and Vijayendra Saraswathi, the family of the murdered man demanded justice.

Puducherry Principal District and Sessions Judge C.S. Murugan said the witnesses could not support the prosecution case that the Shankaracharyas were part of the murder conspiracy.

The two seers left the court soon after the judgement was delivered.

Both the Shankaracharyas were the prime accused in the murder of A. Sankararaman, a manager at the Varadarajaperumal temple in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. His body was found at his temple office Sep 3, 2004.

According to police, Sankararaman was writing letters to the Mutt using a pseudonym complaining about financial misappropriation.

K.M. Subramaniam, counsel for the two religious leaders, told the media that the prosecution could not prove the charge of conspiracy.

He said this was not a fit case for appeal by the government in the higher court.

The murder victim's wife Padma, son Anand Sharma and daughter Uma Maithreyi also failed to identify the accused, he said.

Reacting to the acquittals, Anand Sharma expressed his shock and said he found the ruling "unbelievable".

"My father did not commit suicide. If everyone is let off, then who killed my father?" he asked.

He said the family would go through the judgement and decide the future course of action.

Tamil Nadu Police arrested Jayendra Saraswathi in Andhra Pradesh on Diwali day in 2004, shocking his mass of followers spread across India and abroad.

He was in jail for two months. He got bail from the apex court Jan 10, 2005.

His junior Vijayendra Saraswathi was arrested Jan 10, 2005 and was let out on bail a month later by the Madras High Court.

One of the accused, M. Kathiravan, was murdered in March this year.

Apart from the Shankaracharyas, the 22 accused including the manager of the Sankara Mutt, N. Sundaresan, and Jayendra Saraswathi's brother M.K. Raghu.

The trial was shifted to Puducherry from a court near Chennai on a petition from Jayendra Saraswathi after he complained that the atmosphere in Tamil Nadu was not right for a free and fair trial.

The Supreme Court approved the request in 2005.

The apex court also directed the Puducherry government to appoint its own public prosecutor -- also following a petition from Jayendra Saraswathi.

A total of 189 witnesses were examined between 2009 and 2012. Eighty-three turned hostile. So did the lone approver, Ravi Subramaniam.

Welcoming the verdict, Ambur Jai Shankar, president of the Vijaya Bharatham Makkal Katchi, told IANS: "Justice has won. Hindus all over the world will be happy now."

He said police can re-investigate the case to find the real culprit.

Arjun Sampath of Hindu Makkal Katchi told IANS: "Dharma may seem to lose initially to conspiracy but in the end dharma will triumph."

He said the case was instituted against the Shankaracharyas mainly to target the Kanchipuram Mutt.

Several people assembled in the court shouted slogans in support of the seers.

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