Kerala High Court calls for report on evidence tampering case against Transport Minister Antony Raju

A view of the High Court of Kerala in Kochi. File

A view of the High Court of Kerala in Kochi. File | Photo Credit: K. K. Mustafah

The Kerala High Court on July 29 called for a report from the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court, Nedumangadu, in Thiruvananthapuram on the status of the evidence tampering case pending against Transport Minister Antony Raju. Justice Ziyad Rahman A. A. passed the Order on a petition seeking to expedite the trial in the case.

The court in its Order said that the question of the maintainability of the petition could be considered after the detailed hearing. However, in the meantime, the court directed the High Court Registry to get a report from the magistrate court on the status of the case.

When the petition came up for hearing, the prosecution submitted that the petition was not maintainable as it had been filed by a third party. The petitioner, Geroge from Thrissur had no locus standi to move the court. If had any complaints he should have approached the magistrate court or the district court.

The court then asked could the court ignore the pleas of the petition when it had a bearing on the administration of justice. The trial got prolonged for many years. Could a right of the third party be denied when it came to expediting the trial, the court asked.

The prosecution case was that Mr. Raju in his earlier capacity as a lawyer of the accused Australian national in the narcotic smuggling case had aided the accused to tamper with the evidence to escape from the clutches of law. According to the petitioner, though the police had filed the charge sheet against Solaman Joseph of Peroorkada and Antony Raju in 2006 it had been pending since then without any trial.

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He wanted the court to order an inquiry by the Registrar (Vigilance) into the delay in the trial of the case. The people had every right to know the fraud played in the case since those sitting at the helm of affairs were paid from the exchequer. The delay was is culpable and unjustifiable, the petitioner contended.

The case is an offshoot of the drug smuggling case. Andrew Salvatore Cervelli, an Australian national was arrested, at Thiruvananthapuram airport on April 4, 1990, on the charge that he had concealed 61.5 gm of hashish in his underwear.

The underwear was treated as one of the pieces of evidence. The magistrate had ordered that the underwear be stored separately in order to avoid it being confused as a personal belonging of the accused. The district court later sentenced Cervelli to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment.

Later, Cervelli was acquitted by the High Court after it found that the underwear presented as evidence in the trial court was “small” and could not have been worn by the accused at the time of his arrest.

In the meantime, the then Investigating officer K. K. Jayamohan had filed a petition before the High Court stating that the underwear had been tampered with after it was deposited as evidence. The High Court then ordered its Vigilance wing to investigate the matter. It was found by the Vigilance Wing that the evidence had been tampered with while in court custody. The district court ordered the Vanchiyoor police to register a case of cheating and tampering.

The Forensic Sciences Laboratory (FSL) Director had also reported that the underwear was cut and stitched to make it smaller. The court clerk had also deposed that he had given the underwear to one of Cervelli’s lawyers on August 9, 1990, and it was returned on December 5, the same year.

Meanwhile, the Victorian Police in Australia arrested Cervelli in 1996 in connection with the murder of Ismet Shygri Balla. While in custody at the Melbourne Remand Centre, Cerville allegedly told his co-accused, Wesley John Paul, that his family had travelled to India and bribed the “clerk of courts” to tamper with the evidence. Detective Senior Constables, Green, and Wolfe, who questioned Wesley at the Melbourne Remand Centre in 1996, forwarded the information to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) through Interpol. The CBI in turn sent the report to the State police.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2022 10:09:44 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/kerala-high-court-calls-for-report-on-evidence-tampering-case-against-transport-minister-antony-raju/article65697321.ece