New Delhi: Even as the red carpet gets rolled out for the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse and the delegation accompanying him, it has come to light that a minister in his entourage is a proclaimed offender in India and is liable for arrest if not for the diplomatic immunity he enjoys.
As per a report published in leading English daily on Thursday, Douglas Devananda, Minister for Traditional Industries and Small Enterprises is wanted in connection with a shootout-cum-murder case registered in Chennai in 1986. Devananda, who was then a member of the separatist movement Eelam People`s Revolutionary Front (EPRLF) in Sri Lanka, was charged along with nine others for opening indiscriminate firing at locals in Choolaimedu in Central Chennai in1986.
As many as five people were injured in the shootout and one of those identified as Thirunavukkarasu later succumbed to his injuries. In the Choolaimedu shootout case, Devananda and his associates were booked for murder, attempt to murder, rioting and unlawful assembly.
In the beginning, Devananda attended courts and obtained bail, but his associates went into hiding. In 1994, Devananda, too went underground, which forced the VI Additional Sessions Court in Chennai to declare him a proclaimed offender.
A second case of kidnapping and demanding extortion was registered against the Sri Lankan minister by Kilpauk police on March 2, 1989. The case is still sub-judice.
In 1990, Devananda was booked for rioting and criminal intimidation of a person identified as Valavan by the Kodambakkam police in 1990.
Devananda has had a chequered past. He was formerly with the EPRLF, later in the People Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), then with the Eelam National Democratic Liberation Front (ENDLF) and now with the Eelam People`s Democratic Party (EPDP).
He has survived as many as ten bids of his life for criticising the LTTE and its chief V Prabhakaran. Just recently, he escaped unhurt when a human bomb exploded in his office on November 28, 2007.
However, the minister denies any knowledge of being declared a proclaimed offender in India. He insists that he will respond if he is approached through legal channels.
Section 41(1)(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), empowers any police officer to arrest a person, who has been proclaimed as an offender either under the CrPC or by an order of the state government "with or without any order from a magistrate and without a warrant."
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) also prohibits Indians from extending facilities such as food, shelter, money, arms and conveyance to offenders and proclaimed offenders, and has specific provisions to punish people who harbour such people.