Rag student severed victim's head

Ragging restraints at Indian universities are likely after a southern court sentenced a former medical student to life imprisonment for beheading a fresher.

The court heard that the first-year student refused to do certain things during Raja Muthiah Medical College rag in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu in November 1996.

The Tamil Nadu state government has already banned ragging. The judge described the offence as "hair-raising, extremely brutal and diabolic" but rejected a prosecution plea for capital punishment because the case was built on circumstantial evidence.

The accused student, John David, broke down and pleaded: "I swear I am not guilty."

David, a 19-year-old senior student, allegedly beat up Pon Navarasu, son of a former vice-chancellor of Madras University, for protesting at his "humiliation" and when the boy lost consciousness he severed his head.

The prosecution said David then tossed the head into a canal behind the college, packed the body in a suitcase and was on his way to Madras (now Chennai) when the police caught him. David's college mates testified that he had a reputation for being a bully and humiliating freshers.

Ragging in professional colleges has assumed serious proportions. Almost every year there are suicides after freshers are subjected to extreme ragging. However, the case was the first time a link was established between ragging and the death of the victim.

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