Acquittal of 20 accused in Onchiyam murder case

Minister for Home Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan on Wednesday discussed with the special prosecutors in the T.P. Chandrasekharan murder case about the possibility of an appeal against the order of the trial court acquitting 20 accused.

The closed-door meeting between the special prosecutors, C.K. Sreedharan and P. Kumarankutty, and the Minister lasted less than 45 minutes. The meeting was in the backdrop of the ruling last week by the Special Additional Sessions Court (Marad Cases) trying the murder of Revolutionary Marxist Party (RMP) leader, acquitting 20 of the 56 accused of the charges.

Among those acquitted were Karayi Rajan, member, Kannur district secretariat, CPI(M); E.M. Shaji, secretary of the Kallamala West branch, CPI(M); and Sarin Sasi, Kannur district president, SFI. The case pertains to a seven-member gang, allegedly hired by the CPI(M), hacking Chandrasekharan to death at Vallikkad, near Onchiyam, on May 4, 2012.

The meeting also assumes significance as the verdict had also generated a fresh bout of factionalism in the Congress party with a section of ‘I’ group from north Kerala accusing the Home Minister of not processing the case properly.

The 20 accused were acquitted under Section 232 (if, after taking the evidence for the prosecution, examining the accused, and hearing the prosecution and the defence on the point, the judge considers that there is no evidence that the accused committed the offence, the judge shall record an order of acquittal) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC).

Opinion sought

Official sources said that the Minister had asked the special prosecutors to give an expert opinion whether the State government had any scope for appealing against the order before the High Court of Kerala when a large number of accused had been acquitted under Section 232 of the CrPC. Previously, the court had also discharged two accused under Section 227 (discharge) of the CrPC before the court framing the charge sheet.

The special prosecutors said that they would study the order of the trial court and give a reply in this regard shortly, Mr. Radhakrishnan told The Hindu.

The prosecutors told Mr. Thiruvanchoor that all the accused who had been acquitted were charged either with Section 118 (concealing design to commit offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life) or Section 109 (punishment of abetment if the act abetted is committed in consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) or Section 212 (harbouring offender) of the Indian Penal Code.

The prosecution witnesses who had to testify against these accused had turned hostile during the trial. As many as 52 witnesses had turned hostile in the case. Most of these witnesses were residing in areas known to be strongholds of the CPI (M), Mr. Sreedharan said.

On the one hand the investigators had found it difficult to get appropriate witnesses to depose against the accused and on the other they did not want to fabricate evidence and rope in false witnesses, the special prosecutors said.

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