Erwadi: Accused get 7 yrsí RI

A magistrate Court on Monday sentenced four persons to seven years rigorous imprisonment in a case relating to the tragic death of 28 mentally challenged persons at an asylum in Ramanathapuram district. All the inmates of the privately run institute, including 11 women, had been kept under fetters when the fire broke out.

Chief Judicial Magistrate K V Raj found Maideen Badsha, 39, owner of Badsha Home for the Mentally Challenged, wife Suriya Begam and relatives Rashak and Mumtaj Begum guilty under various provisions of Indian Penal Code.

The court sentenced the four accused to 28 counts of homicide, which would mean seven years in prison for each of the 28 deaths. But the Judge said all sentences would run concurrently, which means they would need to serve only seven years in prison. All the accused were found guilty under Section 30 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), Section 342 (wrongful confinement) and Section338 (2) (causing grievous hurt by an act endangering life or personal safety of others). Besides, Badsha was slapped a fine of Rs. 28,000.

In a macabre incident that occurred on August 6, 2001, fire engulfed the thatched roof of the mental asylum, charring to death the 28 inmates who were kept chained. A national outcry followed, prompting the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the tragedy and lay down some guidelines in the enforcement of the Mental Health Act provisions.

Erwadi was notorious for unregulated institutions offering miracle cures for various mental illnesses. For families too, the town was a convenient 'dumping ground' for their mentally ill relatives.

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