The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kanchi suspect U-turn

Chennai, Nov. 24: An accused whose disclosure led to the arrest of the Kanchi seer has stunned the prosecution by retracting his confession.

Kathiravan, who along with another suspect had implicated Jayendra Saraswati in the murder of a temple official, told a Kancheepuram court today that he had confessed after being tortured by police.

The second key suspect, Rajni, then intervened to say that 'his teeth and hands were broken' in custody.

Shell-shocked police officers, who were expecting a routine hearing for extending judicial custody, rushed to seek the help of an assistant public prosecutor. He objected to the recording of Kathiravan's submission.

But magistrate Uthamaraj, who had sent the seer to police custody and later refused to extend it, said: 'I have to record whatever the remand prisoner says.' He asked Kathiravan to give his statement in writing.

But Kathiravan said he could not write because the police had broken his hands. The magistrate himself then took down the submission.

Lawyers on both sides said they were taken aback by Kathiravan's somersault and said its impact could be gauged only after going through the records carefully.

It was on the basis of the statements of Kathiravan and Rajni that Tamil Nadu police had mounted the dramatic midnight operation that ended in the arrest of Jayendra Saraswati in Andhra Pradesh. The police had claimed that Kathiravan was the link between the seer and the hired killers.

Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa, too, had told the Assembly that the statements of and seizures from the two had led to the unearthing of the 'shocking, but definitive information' on the Kanchi seer's involvement in the murder of the temple official, Shankar Raman, in September.

Raman, the manager of the Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple in Kancheepuram when he died, had been running a campaign against the way the mutt was functioning under Jayendra Saraswati.

Kathiravan's about-turn in the court put the glare on another aspect of the chief minister's statement.

The accused told the court that he was picked up on November 3. The police as well as Jayalalithaa's statement had said he was caught on November 9, two days before the seer was arrested.

Kathiravan alleged that he was asked to 'sign on some pieces of blank white paper' and was denied medical aid. The magistrate extended the duo's custody to December 8.

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