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Saturday, April 1, 2017

Court convicts 31 workers in Maruti gruesome killing case

In July 2012, Maruti at Manesar was on fire –  in a sad tale,  riots broke out, in the widespread vandalism, the plant, many vehicles were damaged and more worrisome -    One person was killed and over two dozen people were injured as thousands of protesting workers locked its main gates trapping officials inside, it was reported.  The Company blamed the workers for sparking the fire.  The labour unrest reportedly followed the suspension of a worker by the company. Union leaders accused Maruti of taking action against workers “without any reason”. The company said the union prevented officials from taking action against the worker who beat up a supervisor on the shop floor.

From a dusty town to a fast growing industrial town in Gurgaon – Manesar, 32 km from IGI Airport,  owed its transformation to the Maruti plant.  The unit  witnessed three staff stirs in the previous year and reportedly incurred  an operational loss of around Rs 2,000 crore.  The disturbing Q was  how did the workers, who were apparently working peacefully till the altercation began with a supervisor, suddenly turn into a blood-thirsty mob?   The Officials alleged that perhaps the workers came prepared to unleash violence.  It was further alleged that once the altercation remained unresolved, workers used the side-impact beam from the cars to hit management executives on their heads.  Some analysts pointed out that the marriage of convenience of Suzuki, a Japanese company with a reputation for maintaining a punishing work ethic among its workers and the laidback  ‘work culture’ was ridden with thorns.  In its early days, Suzuki hired about 2,000 local workers, brought them over to Suzuki’s main factory in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture, near Tokyo, and trained them in the ‘Japanese way of working’.

Things deteriorated for sure though the workforce was young; drawn from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and less willing to tolerate the indignities they feel they don’t deserve on the assembly line.   .. .. and far from being thankful for the chance to earn a decent wage, they claimed  their frustrations had been  mounting because they cannot support themselves.  Unions claimed that the management failed to uphold the dignity of workers !! – but none can justify the killing of  HR Manager Awanish Kumar Dev ~ yet miles away, in Hosur,   a splinter group with small pockets of support, but keen on widening its influence among workmen across Tamil Nadu, endorsed the mob violence in Manesar.

Now after more than 4 ½ years, justice appears to have been served as 13 have been found guilty of murder following factory riots but escape death penalty while 117 workers were acquitted.  In connection with the gruesome killing of HR Manager Avanish Kumar Dev  who was set ablaze inside the plant, Police  arrested 148 in connection with his murder, while 62 escaped handcuffs.   14 of the accused were released with a fine and 'time served' after spending more than four years in prison.  

Recently, a Gurugram court sentenced 13 accused men to life imprisonment in connection with that murder on  July 18, 2012. Additional District and Session Judge RP Goyal also pronounced a five-year imprisonment to four accused, while 14 others who have already served four and half years jail term were released after paying a fine of Rs 2,500. The 13 workers found guilty of murder were identified as union president Ram Mehar, Sandeep Dhillon, Ram Bilas, Sarabjeet Singh, Pawan Kumar, Sohan Kumar, Pradeep Kumar, Ajmer Singh, Jiya Lal, Amarjeet, Dhanraj Bhambi, Yogesh Kumar and Suresh Kumar.  They have been found guilty of murder, attempt to murder, rioting, destruction of property, and mischief under the Indian Penal Code. Four others were found guilty of violence and rioting. 

The court had convicted 31 workers on March 10, while 117 others were acquitted. The 13 accused were charged with the murder of  HR general manager, whose charred body was found in the facility following the riots on July 18, 2012. Dev had died after he failed to escape a blaze which was started by rampaging employees in the Manesar plant. Earlier, the defence lawyers also claimed that the convicted workers are the victims of a conspiracy and pointed out that most of them have spent more than four years in jail.

Prosecution demanded capital punishment for the accused, citing it to be a 'rarest of the rare' case.  Its lawyer is quoted as saying that he is   satisfied with the court judgement. Such a decision will give strong message to others. Defence lawyers Rebecca John and Vrinda Grover said they would challenge the sentence in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. .. .. whether it is justice or not, the lost live could never be retrieved and for his family, the gruesome killing will haunt throughout their lifetime – the Defence will have no right answer to them !!  Sad !!!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th Mar 2017

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