India court jails 13 for life over murder at car plant

March 18, 2017

NEW DELHI - An Indian court Saturday sentenced 13 workers to life in jail for the murder of a senior manager in an outburst of deadly violence at a car plant in 2012, one of the country's worst episodes of labour unrest. 

The court last week convicted a total of 31 workers, including 13 for murder, after hundreds of employees clashed with managers over wages and appointments at the Maruti Suzuki factory in Manesar. 

The hearing in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of New Delhi, jailed 13 workers for murdering Awanish Kumar Dev, whose charred body was found in the remains of a building following the riots in July 2012. 

Dev, who was a human resources manager, died after he failed to escape a blaze which was started by workers who went on the rampage in Manesar, which is around two hours' drive southwest of the capital. 

"Thirteen people who were convicted of murder have been given the life sentence," Rebecca John, a senior lawyer representing the workers, told AFP. 

The court sentenced four of the remaining 18 -- all of whom were found guilty of rioting, arson and damaging property -- to five years in jail "which means they have another one or two months to serve", John said. 

The rest were expected to walk free later Saturday with the court stating they had already served more than four years behind bars while awaiting the outcome of the case. 

John's team plans to appeal the verdict. 

"If 13 people have been convicted for murder wrongly there will be a challenge to it," John said. 

Prosecutors told the court that the attack was the result of a conspiracy by workers, who had been at loggerheads with the management over wages and plans to set up a union at the workplace. 

But union leaders claim it was triggered by an argument between a supervisor and a casual employee, who was abused over his low caste. 

The plant, which manufactures nearly 700,000 cars annually, was shut for 60 days prior to the deadly violence. 

Maruti Suzuki, a subsidiary of Japanese automobile major Suzuki, has a market share of 51 percent in India.


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