A 74-year-old man’s 12-year legal struggle to bring to justice the men who torched his house yielded fruit on Thursday.

Assistant Sessions Judge Muhammed Ibrahim sentenced to nine years rigorous imprisonment nine men who were found guilty of setting Krishnan Ashary’s house on fire on January 28, 2001.

He slapped a total fine of Rs.1.5 lakh on the convicts and ordered that it be paid to the petitioner. In the event of default of payment of fine, the accused would have to serve an additional sentence of one year.

The court also found fault with the then Station House Officer, Vizhinjam, who reported the case of arson as a ‘fire incident,’ despite the complainant’s deposition, eyewitness accounts, and other evidence, including possible motive and premeditation.

Those found guilty were Girish Kumar; Suresh Kumar; Anil Kumar, alias Ani; Soman; ‘Kozhiyala’ Vijayan; Asokan, Reji, alias Renjith; ‘Apollo’ Sunathan; and Sivakumar, alias Kunjumon. All were Mr. Ashary’s neighbours and prominent Left Democratic Front (LDF) men in the coastal locality.

According to the prosecution, Mr. Ashary had in 1999 procured a High Court order granting him police protection against the accused. He had faced several threats to his life and property after he resisted the efforts of the ‘politically influential’ men to encroach upon his property and cut a road through it.

With the local police refusing to charge the men with arson, Mr. Ashary approached the High Court, which ordered the then Circle Inspector, Vizhinjam, K. Ramachandran to investigate the case.

Special Prosecutor Sajan Prasad prosecuted the case.