Death of Abdul Kareem in Vythiri in February 2006

The Special Court (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act Cases) at Vadakara, which also functions as the Additional District and Sessions Court, on Thursday, awarded life imprisonment and a fine of Rs.1.5 lakh each to three persons found guilty of murdering A.M. Abdul Kareem, a resort owner at Vythiri in Wayanad district, in February 2006.

Judge C.K. Somarajan sentenced Ronnie Thomas, 31, first accused; Anilan Ramakrishnan, 39, third accused; and Sudhir Thilakan, 39, eighth accused; after finding them guilty of wrongfully restraining Abdul Kareem and his driver Sivan and brutally assaulting them on the Kozhikode-Mysore Highway at the ‘ninth hairpin’ of the Wayanad ghat at 9.30 p.m. on February 11.

The assailants abandoned the critically injured victims in a rubber estate near Adivaram bordering the Kozhikode-Wayanad districts, assuming them to be dead. Abdul Kareem succumbed to his injuries while being taken to the Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode the next day while Sivan survived to identify the attackers.

According to the prosecution, the prime accused, Babu Varghese, managing director of the Thiruvananthapuram-based Tour India, engaged a gang from Erankulam to murder Abdul Kareem to avenge an the incident in 2005.

Abdul Kareem had leased out his resort to Babu Varghese for two years from 2004 to 2006. But Babu Varghese had allegedly modified the term (to 2008). Subsequently, Abdul Kareem had to file a forgery case against Babu Varghese.

Later, he also filed a case of trespass following which Babu Varghese was remanded in custody.

The court awarded the accused three months’ rigorous imprisonment under Section 143 (unlawful assembly); one year rigorous imprisonment under Section 147 (rioting); a year-and-a-half rigorous imprisonment under Section 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons); three months under Section 341 (wrongful restraint); five years under Section 307 (attempt to murder); and life imprisonment and a penalty of Rs.1.5 lakh under 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code.

The accused were pronounced guilty on October 18. The court ordered that the penalty should be paid to the family of Abdul Kareem. If the convicts failed to remit the amount, they will undergo an additional two-year term, the court said.

The court acquitted V. Jyothish Kumar, fourth accused; M. Jiji Varkey, fifth accused; and Joseph, alias Jose, sixth accused; as the prosecution failed to prove the charges against them.

The third accused, K. Joshy Das, jumped bail and seventh accused, Babu Varghese, died a year ago. Three more accused, Anifa, alias Kuttai; Sajeev, alias Sachin; and Subahsh, alias Kannan; were absconding.

The trial in the case began on March 14, 2007. Earlier, three Judges P. Ubaid, K. Bhaskaran, and C.K. Remakantha conducted the proceeding. The delay in the trial was caused on account of additional cross examination of the witnesses.

This is reportedly the first case in north Kerala in which a hit squad was employed to eliminate a business rival. In 2006, Nadapuram legislator Benoy Viswom raised the issue in the Assembly through an adjournment motion. The State government subsequently transferred the case from the local police to the Crime Branch.

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