Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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R. Balaji



Culpable Homicide


5 yrs

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U.S. State or Country of Crime:


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Tamil Nadu

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Judicially Exonerated

Summary of Case:

"J. Santhalakshmi, R. Vijayalakshmi, R. Balaji, S. Sivaprakasam, T. Thandavan, G. Durairaj, Sarasawathy, and B. Jeyachandran were wrongly convicted on July 30, 2014 of culpable homicide not amounting to murder under IPC section 304(2). Their prosecutions were related to the death of 94 children from a fire at the private Sri Krishna Middle School in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, India on July 16, 2004. Fifteen other children sustained grievous injuries, and three children sustained simple injuries. About 10:40 am on July 16 a mid-day meal was being prepared in the school kitchen when a spark from burning firewood fell on the thatched roof and caught fire. The fire spread to the thatched roof of a classroom where children were studying. Evacuation of students on the upper floors was hampered because the three-story school only had one entrance and a single flight of stairs. About 100 students on the upper floors, and all students on the ground floor escaped unharmed. J. Santhalakshmi was the school's headmistress (principal); R. Vijayalakshmi was the school's noon meal organiser; R. Balaji was the District Elementary Education Officer (DEEO); S. Sivaprakasam was Assistant in the DEEO office; T. Thandavan was Office Superintendent in the District Education Office; G. Durairaj was Personal Assistant to the DEEO; J. Santhalakshmi was the school administrator and wife of the founder of the school, Pulavar R. Palanisamy; and B. Jeyachandran was a chartered engineer. After their convictions following a bench trial in Thanjavur, Principal District and Sessions Court Judge Mohamed Ali sentenced them to five years of rigorous imprisonment except for Jeyachandran, who was sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment and payment of Rs. 50,000 fine. They appealed. On August 10, 2017 the Madras High Court acquitted all eight, all on the basis of insufficient evidence of their guilt except for Santhalakshmi, whose conviction was abated because she died while her appeal was pending. The convictions of two defendants were affirmed but their prison sentences were reduced to time served, so they were ordered immediately released: Pulavar R. Palanisamy who had been sentenced to life imprisonment; and, R. Vasanthi who had been sentenced to five years imprisonment. For Palanisamy and Vasanthi the court ordered: "Sentence modified to one of period already undergone by the appellant during the investigation, trial and post conviction." Palanisamy's fine of Rs 1,16,500 remained. At sentencing in 2014 Judge Ali had directed that of the fines levied on the defendants, Rs. 50,000 should be given as compensation to each parent of the 94 children who died, Rs. 25,000 should be given as compensation to each of the 15 children who sustained grievous injuries, and Rs. 10,000 each to the three other students who sustained simple injuries. Eleven defendants were acquitted after the trial. So of the 21 people prosecuted, only two were ultimately convicted."

Conviction Caused By:

Innocence Proved By:

"On August 10, 2017 the Madras High Court acquitted all eight, all on the basis of insufficient evidence of their guilt except for Santhalakshmi, who was acquitted because she died while her appeal was pending."

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Compensation Awarded:

Was Perpetrator Identified?

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Age When Released:



Information Source 1:

"Kumbakonam Fire Tragedy: Madras HC Suspends Conviction, Sentence of 7, By Staff, The Hans India, August 11, 2017"

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Information Source 2:

"School head gets life term in Kumbakonam tragedy, 10 convicted, By R. Rajaram (Thanjavur), The Hindu, July 30, 2014"

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